Asbestos Awareness: What are Your Duties as an Employer?

image is showing a danger asbestos sign representing the importance of asbestos awareness training

If your employees are working in an area where they could disturb asbestos during their work, you have a legal responsibility under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to provide asbestos awareness information and training.

What Does “Asbestos Awareness” Mean?

Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2021, Approved Code of Practice  (ACoP), there are three main levels of information, instruction and training that employers must provide — asbestos awareness, non-licensable work with asbestos and licensable work with asbestos.

Asbestos awareness training should provide workers with the information they need to avoid disturbing asbestos. It is not intended to equip employees with the knowledge necessary to work safely with asbestos; this would require additional training.

Where Is Asbestos Usually Found?

There may be a risk of disturbing asbestos in a wide range of work settings. Many of the buildings that were constructed before the asbestos ban was introduced in the UK in 1999, still contain some form of asbestos.

  • Maintenance workers,
  • Plasters,
  • Shopfitters,
  • Gas fitters,
  • Telecommunication engineers,
  • Painters and decorators,
  • Architects,
  • Plumbers
  • Demolition workers, and
  • Ventilation engineers.

could all be at risk of coming into contact with asbestos through their normal work, and this is far from an exhaustive list.

If there is a chance of asbestos being present, the employer must carry out a risk assessment to identify the type of asbestos that is present and the potential level of exposure as well as recording planned strategies for reducing the risk and monitoring exposure before any work begins.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has created industry-specific guides for tradespeople, building owners, licensed contractors as well as information for members of the public. These guides include information on where asbestos may be found.

What Should Asbestos Awareness Training Include?

Any employee who is liable to disturb asbestos during their daily work must be provided with appropriate training so that they can keep themselves and others safe. Training alone will not make an employee competent to work with asbestos but it is an essential foundation upon which experience and on-the-job learning can build.

Asbestos awareness training should equip workers and supervisors with the information and understanding they need to avoid disturbing asbestos. The HSE sets out four core elements of effective asbestos awareness training:

  • The properties of asbestos and its effect on health
  • The types, uses and likely occurrence of asbestos
  • The procedures for dealing with an emergency
  • How to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos

The training may be delivered online or face-to-face but it must meet the requirements of Regulation 10 of the ACoP.

Additional Employer Responsibilities 

In addition to providing asbestos awareness information, instruction and training, employers must provide training for non-licensable work including notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW) and licensable work with asbestos.

Training for non-licensable work should equip people who are required to perform tasks that will disturb asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) with the knowledge to do so safely.

The HSE provides a detailed guide on training for licensed contractors working with high-risk ACMs.

The Cost of Non-Compliance

According to an independent 2004 study, over 2,000 UK citizens die each year from illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos. Insurers pay out  about £200 million a year to mesothelioma sufferers.

In the first three years after the Mesothelioma Act was passed in 2014, insurance companies paid out approximately £32 million. The law, which helped those affected by asbestos-related cancer to file a case even if they could not track down the employer.  This new legislation, could result in the UK insurance industry paying out £4-10 million over a decade.

If the employer liable can be traced, the claimant can bring a case against them.

Online Asbestos Awareness Training

Howlett Health and Safety offers a dedicated Asbestos Awareness Course via e-learning. The training contains four modules (65 minutes) covering all the essential information your employees need to learn how to avoid disturbing asbestos while working:

  • Asbestos Exposure Risks and Its Properties
  • Types of Asbestos
  • How to Minimise and Avoid the Risks From Working Around Asbestos
  • Overview of Asbestos Legislation.

The course is iatp and RoSPA approved and upon successful completion of the training, participants can download and print out a certificate.

To find out more or to book places on this course for your team, contact us today.

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