Asbestos: Employer Responsibilities3rd September 2018
In 2005, figures published in the British Journal of Cancer predicted that mesothelioma would peak within 10 years in the UK and the highest number of deaths would be between 1,950 and 2,450. After this, though, they expected the mortality rate to drop dramatically.
Unfortunately, this prediction was wrong. In the past decade, asbestos-related deaths have soared by nearly a third and are set to peak this year. Currently, more than 2,500 people die of mesothelioma each year.
It’s easy to see that asbestos is still the top workplace killer. In this article, we’ll be looking at the responsibilities of employers to help prevent this.
Duty to manage asbestos
By law, the person or persons by contract, ownership or control of a building have a duty to manage any asbestos it may contain. That is, the duty holder has to take reasonable steps to find out if asbestos is present in the premises and, if so, how much and in what condition. Until a full survey has been carried out, it should be at least assumed that asbestos could be present.
The results of the survey should be recorded and the information be provided to safety representatives and any employees who may work in proximity to the asbestos.
The identification of asbestos
Further to the last point, it is the responsibility of the employer to not carry out any demolition or maintenance work which might expose employees to asbestos unless it’s been established whether asbestos is present, the type of asbestos and its condition. If there is any doubt, the employer should go on the assumption that asbestos is present, and it’s not just white asbestos (the least harmful type of asbestos).
For those employees who may come into contact with or disturb asbestos in their line of work, employers must provide them with adequate training, information and instruction. The same also applies for their supervisors and those employees who help their employer comply with regulations. The regularity of this training is important, too. That is, such training is not just a one off, rather, it must occur at precise intervals.
Reducing asbestos exposure
Employers have a duty to prevent or reduce asbestos exposure as far as is reasonably possible. However, if prevention isn’t entirely possible, adequate protective gear must be provided to those who may come in contact with the asbestos, masks and overalls, for example.
If any employee is exposed to asbestos above the control limit, the employer must be sure to inform the employee immediately and ensure that work stops until action has been taken to reduce exposure to below the control limit.
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