Asbestos Awareness for Scaffolders

Asbestos Awareness for Scaffolders.

This audio course is provided by CTC South West Ltd.

This asbestos awareness refresher course is suitable for scaffolders who could work nearby asbestos products as part of their work.

To take this course, you need to have completed a full asbestos awareness course in previous years.

The course covers the requirement for asbestos awareness refresher training, as set out in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Once you have completed this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify the properties of asbestos.
  • Outline the health effects of asbestos.
  • Outline the types, uses and likely occurrence of asbestos and asbestos containing materials in buildings and plant.
  • Identify the main statutory provisions that relate to asbestos.
  • Know the correct procedures to follow in an emergency.
  • Know how to avoid the risks of asbestos.

This course does not cover working with asbestos, such as removal and disposal.

Introduction.

Asbestos was used as a building material from the 1950s until it was banned in 1999.

Asbestos was a wonder-material, and helped to provide fire protection and make materials stronger and hard wearing.

However, asbestos fibres are tiny and indestructible, and once they have been inhaled into the lungs they cannot be removed and cause irreparable damage, leading to lung cancers and eventually death.

About 6500 people die from asbestos related illness each year. This includes around 1000 construction workers.

Construction workers are at high risk of breathing in fibres, as they are likely to find and disturb asbestos during their work.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring group of fibrous minerals. It is thought that hot, mineral-bearing water flowed through cracks in rocks, and over time solidified, forming asbestos.

There are two main groups of asbestos – Amphibole (brown and blue asbestos) and Serpentine (white asbestos).

Asbestos was mainly mined in Russia, Africa and Canada.

Smaller deposits can be found all over the world.

Asbestos Products.

At the time, Asbestos was thought of as a wonder-material. The properties of asbestos only served to enhance products by making them stronger, hard wearing, resistant to acids and alkalis, and heat resistant.

Some types of asbestos were also hydrophobic, meaning they repel water – a very useful property in building materials.

Because of this, Asbestos was used in hundreds of different products, but at the time no-one knew how dangerous asbestos was, so no records were kept of the products it was used in, or where those materials were used.

Asbestos products can be broadly broken into two categories. Friable, and Non-Friable.

Friable Asbestos Products.

Friable products are those that easily release asbestos fibres into the air, making them highly dangerous. To work on these products, you need a license from the HSE. Friable products may include:

  • Loose fill asbestos. (most dangerous).
  • Sprayed coating.
  • Pipe lagging.
  • Some types of asbestos fibreboard.

Non-Friable Asbestos Products.

Non-Friable products are those that will not release fibres, unless they are broken, drilled etc. A license is not required to remove these products, but you must still be trained. Non-friable products may include:

  • Cement products.
  • Plastics, felts, and floor tiles. (least dangerous).

Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos fibres are microscopic. When they are released into the air, they can be inhaled and penetrate deep into the lungs. Once they are there, the fibres cannot be coughed up, removed, or absorbed by the body’s defence cells.

Although the fibres are tiny, they still cause damage over time. The more fibres there are in the lungs, the faster the damage builds up.

If asbestos materials are in a good condition and not disturbed, there is very little chance that fibres will become airborne.

However, if materials are in poor condition or fragile, fibres may be released into the air. Fibres can also be released during demolition and maintenance work.

The Health Effects of Asbestos.

Asbestos affects the lungs in various ways:

Pleural Thickening.

Asbestos fibres penetrate through the lung tissue, causing a thickening of the outer covering of the lung, effectively squeezing the life out of the lung. Pleural thickening is not fatal but is very debilitating.

Asbestosis.

Asbestos fibres cause scarring and blistering inside the lungs, reducing lung capacity. Asbestosis is often fatal.

Lung Cancer.

Asbestos fibres affect cells within the lung causing them to mutate into cancer cells. These cells then multiply causing tumours. Lung cancer is nearly always fatal.

Mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibres penetrate through the wall of the lung causing a cancerous covering of the lung. Mesothelioma is always fatal.

Because the fibres are so small, it takes a long time for the damage to build up to the point where you notice it. Generally this can be anywhere from 15 to 60 years, depending on the type and duration of exposure.

Smoking also affects your chances of getting ill from asbestos. If you smoke and you are significantly exposed to asbestos, you are around 50 times more likely to suffer from long term health effects.

Working with Asbestos.

When working with asbestos, there is not only a risk that the person doing the work will breathe in fibres, but also others could be exposed if proper precautions are not taken to decontaminate clothing and equipment, and clean the area. It is therefore highly important that only competent people work with asbestos.

Licensed Work

Friable asbestos products such as sprayed on coatings and pipe lagging can only be removed by contractors who hold a license from the HSE. This type of work is very high risk, and requires a significant amount of information, instruction, training and monitoring to be in place if it is to be carried out safely.

Non-Licensed Asbestos Work

Work with non-friable types of asbestos such as asbestos cement products does not require a license from the HSE. However, it is still important that appropriate information, instruction, training and monitoring is in place to ensure it is carried out safely.

Notifiable Non-Licensed Asbestos Work

This is work with non-friable asbestos products that are in a poor condition, or where large areas need to be worked on. In this case, the HSE must be notified in advance of the work.

Asbestos Awareness Training

This course only provides an awareness of where you may find asbestos in order to help protect you, your workmates and your family. It is not suitable for carrying out work on asbestos.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

The control of asbestos regulations 2012 apply to all work with asbestos, and lay out the requirements for:

  • Management of asbestos in domestic and commercial properties.
  • Notifiable and Licensed work with asbestos.
  • Requirements for information, instruction, training and supervision.
  • Requirement to carry out a risk assessment and formulate an asbestos management plan.

The regulations aim to protect everyone from being exposed to asbestos fibres. Employers and those in-charge of premises must:

  • Identify any asbestos on the premises .
  • Assess the current state of the asbestos, and how it may be affected by any work being carried out.
  • Ensure that persons who may disturb asbestos are informed of its location and condition.
  • Manage the asbestos by having it removed, or protecting it from damage, and monitoring its condition.

Employees must:

  • Follow the site rules and procedures.
  • Stop work and report to your supervisor if you suspect asbestos.
  • Protect yourself and your workmates from being expose to asbestos.

The regulations apply to:

  • All non-domestic premises.
  • Common areas of domestic premises such as entrances, stairwells etc.

Domestic premises are not directly affected. However, a manager on a refurb project would still have a duty to protect their employees and sub-contractors from exposure to asbestos.

Where You Find Asbestos in Domestic Properties.

In a domestic building, asbestos may be found in the following products:

  • Asbestos cement water tank.
  • Pipe lagging.
  • Loose fill insulation.
  • Textured decorative coating on walls and ceilings such as Artex.
  • Asbestos insulating board ceiling tiles.
  • Asbestos insulating board bath panel.
  • Toilet seat and cistern.
  • Asbestos insulating board behind fuse box.
  • Asbestos insulating board airing cupboard and / or sprayed insulation coating on boiler and hot water tank.
  • Asbestos insulating board partition walls.
  • Asbestos insulating board interior window panel.
  • Asbestos insulating board around boilers, storage heaters and warm air systems.
  • Vinyl floor tiles.
  • Asbestos insulating board behind fire.
  • Asbestos cement gutters and downpipes.
  • Soffits – asbestos insulating board or asbestos cement.
  • Asbestos insulating board exterior window panel.
  • Asbestos cement roof.
  • Asbestos cement panels.
  • Roofing felt.

Where You Find Asbestos in Industrial Properties.

In an industrial building, asbestos may be found in the following products:

  • Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls, beams and columns.
  • Asbestos cement water tank.
  • Loose fill insulation.
  • Lagging on boilers and pipes.
  • Asbestos insulating board ceiling tiles.
  • Toilet seat and cistern.
  • Asbestos insulating board partition walls.
  • Asbestos insulating board in fire doors.
  • Asbestos rope seals, gaskets and paper.
  • Vinyl floor tiles.
  • Asbestos insulating board around boilers, storage heaters and warm air systems.
  • Textiles e.g. fire blankets.
  • Textured decorative coating on walls and ceilings such as Artex.
  • Asbestos cement roof.
  • Asbestos cement panels.
  • Asbestos cement gutters and downpipes.
  • Soffits – asbestos insulating board or asbestos cement.
  • Asbestos cement flue.

How are Asbestos Fibres Released?

If asbestos products are in a good condition and are left alone, the chances of fibres being released into the air are very low.

However, if products are in poor condition fibres can be slowly released into the air, and can be inhaled. Over time this can cause significant build up of fibres in the lungs, and future ill health.

If the asbestos materials are disturbed during maintenance, demolition or refurbishment, it is likely that fibres will be released into the air, and affect those doing the work, and anyone using the building after the work is complete. Over time, construction workers could potentially disturb asbestos on many projects, leading to a significant build up of fibres in the lungs, and future ill health.

Before Starting Work.

Before working on any building built or refurbished before the year 2000, any asbestos in the building should be identified by bulk sampling and analysis, through and accredited laboratory. If asbestos products are expected to be affected by the works, they must be removed.

Before you start work, you must:

  • Attend the site induction.
  • Make sure you are aware of the location of any asbestos remaining in the building (some may have been removed).
  • Make sure you are aware of any areas of the building that have not been checked.
  • Do not work on any asbestos materials.
  • Do not work in any areas that have not been checked.

Working Safely.

Asbestos is found in a wide variety of materials within a building. If asbestos is disturbed, fibres could be released into the air and inhaled, causing future ill health.

To protect yourself, you must be 100% sure that the material you are working on does not contain asbestos. If there is even 1% doubt in your mind, stop work and ask your supervisor.

You must:

  • Follow the site rules and procedures.
  • Stop work and report to your supervisor if you suspect asbestos.
  • Protect yourself and your workmates from being expose to asbestos.

Despite being banned, asbestos is still present in the majority of buildings built or refurbished before the year 2000.

Even though an asbestos survey may have been carried out, and the asbestos removed, it does not guarantee that the building is free of asbestos. This is because asbestos was used in so many products, that it is very difficult to find them all during a survey.

For this reason, you need to stay alert, and if you discover suspect materials, stop work immediately and report to your supervisor.

Discovering Asbestos.

If you discover or disturb what you think could be asbestos:

  • Stop work immediately.
  • Evacuate the area and keep everyone out.
  • Report to your supervisor.
  • Wait for further instruction from your supervisor.

If asbestos (or what you think could be asbestos) is released into the air, it is important to:

  • Ensure the contamination is not spread to other areas.
  • Ensure that you and others do not breathe in the asbestos fibres.
  • Ensure that the problem is reported and the contamination is cleaned up.

Some sites will have an emergency procedure in place for circumstances when there is an accidental release of asbestos. This will be covered at induction and it is important to follow the procedures.

Well done. You have finished this audio course. Please take a few minutes now to discuss the course with your supervisor, and ask any questions. Your supervisor will also cover any additional information that is relevant to your company and the type of work you do.