Danger asbestos - sign outside a derelict building

Managing Asbestos Risks

Keeping your team safe from asbestos risks

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that was once used in most construction projects in the UK as insulation or a roofing or flooring material. Projects could range from housing, office blocks, factories, schools, hospitals or even shipbuilding.

It was completely banned from being used in the UK in 1999 due to health concerns, but buildings that were constructed before the ban came in may still contain it, which can pose a risk to your team. As an extremely dangerous carcinogen, you require a licence to work around asbestos.

Take a look at our guidance on how you can keep your team safe from the risks of working around asbestos.

Why is asbestos so dangerous?

Asbestos is made up of many fibres that can be released into the air if damaged or disturbed. If these fibres are inhaled, they won’t cause immediate damage but can lead to serious health complications in the long run.

Asbestos removal / SMAS Worksafe

These are some of the health complications that can arise from inhaling the fibres.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and the lining of the lower intestine.

The sole cause of Mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, and by the time it has been diagnosed, it could lead to a fatality.

Lung cancer

Exposure can also lead to lung cancer, which manifests itself in the same way as lung cancers caused by smoking.

Asbestos-related lung cancers are just as prevalent as Mesotheliomas.

Asbestosis

After being exposed to asbestos over several years, scarring can appear on the lungs due to a condition known as Asbestosis.

The condition can lead to progressive shortness of breath, and in particularly bad cases, can even be fatal.

Thickening of the pleural lining

Pleural thickening is when the lining of the lung thickens and swells due to asbestos exposure. If the lung lining becomes too thick or swollen, the lung can become squeezed, leading to shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.

Protecting your team from exposure

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your team to keep them safe whilst at work. If you suspect a building site may have asbestos, you should take the following steps to protect your team from the dangers of exposure.

Identify asbestos as a risk      

Chrysotile asbestos fiber close up.

If you are working on a site that was built before the year 2000, there is the risk that asbestos may be present.

If you are working on non-residential premises, the owner of the building has a duty of care to provide you with any information on asbestos in the building and the condition it is in.

If no information is available, you should have the building surveyed, and any samples you suspect as being asbestos should be analysed.

Perform a risk assessment

A risk assessment will help you decide whether or not it is safe to carry out building or maintenance work on a site that may house asbestos. In your risk assessment, you should identify if asbestos is a risk, and who may be affected.

You should use the results of your risk assessment to decide if the work is safe to carry out, or if you need to have the asbestos removed.

Do you need a licensed contractor?

Working around asbestos can be safe as long as it isn’t damaged or disturbed. If there is damage to the substance, or your work can’t be carried out without disturbing it, you may need to arrange for a licensed contractor to come and remove it before you carry out any work.

You can find licensed asbestos contractors through the HSE, Checkatrade or TrustATrader. If you are interested in acquiring an asbestos licence, visit the HSE website.

Provide PPE

If a member of your team is going to a site where there may be asbestos, but not where they will be disturbing it, it is still prudent to provide them with facial PPE that protects their breathing.

Take a look at the importance of respiratory protection and some of the equipment you can use in this free guide from Premierline.

Did you know?

Asbestos-related diseases kill approximately 5,000 people a year in the UK. This is more than the number of deaths on UK roads.

Contractor insurance with Premierline

At Premierline, we are passionate about helping you protect the business that you have built. This is why we offer a bespoke service to assess your business needs to make sure that you are covered should the worst happen.

Our business advisors will work with some of the UK’s most well-known insurance providers to find a quote that provides the cover that your business needs. Get in touch to speak with one of our trained insurance experts to discuss your contractor insurance requirements.

Three types of ladder used in construction

Falls from height top cause of fatal injury in construction

Ladders come in all shapes and sizes, but they share a common purpose; which is to provide assistance when working from height to get a job done. Whilst you don’t need a formal qualification to use a ladder, you do need to be competent and understand some basic rules to keep safe when working from a height. Using a ladder or even a step ladder will be considered as working from a height, alongside the more obvious methods of working from height such as a crane, rooftop or scaffold. Ladders can still pose a serious risk to a worker’s safety if used incorrectly.

The HSE figures show that in the construction sector, falls from height result in 47% of fatal workplace injuries, and are responsible for 19% of non-fatal injuries. It’s clear to see that working from height is a real threat to a worker’s safety and demonstrates why this risk must be managed effectively. But the good news is that injuries and fatalities as a result of working from height are preventable.

 

Minimising Risk

Using a ladder incorrectly, overstretching, or standing on incorrect equipment to reach a height, for example, can all increase someone’s chance of falling. On top of that, a worker can become complacent when regularly carrying out work from a height, causing a greater chance of an accident. In construction, many workers are up and down ladders all day, whether it is on a building site, customer premises or to gain access to scaffolds. Care should be taken, and employers should help to keep workers safe.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) requires employers to create safe methods of work to reduce the risk of working from height.  They are legally obliged to ensure any task where working from height is required is suitably planned, supervised and carried out by a competent worker. A risk assessment for each task from height should be carried out, which will include factors such as the weather conditions, the competence of the worker, the place of work, any necessary equipment and specific training required, for example.

The HSE suggests some straightforward and practical measures to help prevent injury when working at height. These include:

  • Complete as much of the work as possible from the ground
  • Make sure workers are able to get safely to and from the area they are working from height
  • Provide suitable, strong and stable equipment for the task, and ensure it is maintained and checked regularly
  • Do not overload or overreach when working from height
  • When working on or near fragile surfaces take extra precautions
  • Provide protection from falling objects
  • Establish emergency procedures for evacuation and rescue

 

Often ladders are deemed the most suitable equipment for a specific task, especially where the task will take 30 minutes or less and it’s generally considered low risk.

“In fact they can be a sensible and practical option for low-risk, short-duration tasks, although they may not automatically be your first choice. Make sure you use the right type of ladder and you know how to use it safely.”

– The HSE

An employer is required to ensure any ladders are suitable for use, maintained and regularly inspected under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

Similarly, employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of themselves and others, use equipment inline with any instructions and training, comply with their employers and any safety provisions, as well as notify their employer of any foreseen issues with their equipment and protection. This is covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

 

Why is training important?

Providing suitable training for working from height, including ladder safety, will help employers meet their legislative duties and keep their workers safe. eLearning can particularly help with educating employees about the dangers of working at height and help them understand their responsibilities when it comes to keeping themselves and others safe. Ensuring safe working practices are established and providing regular training is a good way to minimise the risk of an accident and avoid any costly compensation claims.

Our friends at iHASCO can offer you a free trial of their Working at Height and Ladder Safety online courses. Get in touch with them today!

e-learning at work

What is eLearning and how can it help you win business?

What is eLearning, what are the benefits and how can it help you win business? (Q&A with Alex Wilkins, Head of Business Development at iHASCO)

We caught up with Alex Wilkins, Head of Business Development at iHASCO to find out more about eLearning and its benefits. Alex has been working in the eLearning industry for over 8 years and has seen its progression to become the most popular choice for workplace training.

alex_wilkins_iHASCO

What is eLearning?


eLearning is a form of digital learning which is completed via an electronic device such as your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. It can be accessed from any location as long as you have Wi-Fi or a 4G connection.

Bite-sized eLearning is becoming increasingly popular as it gives employees greater flexibility to be completed around their workloads in short bursts. We know that one of the biggest challenges businesses face is ensuring that their employees can find the time to complete their required training.

eLearning can either be with an online trainer or completed independent – where off the shelf courses are available for a huge range of topics, including workplace health & safety and compliance.

What are the main benefits of eLearning?

Using eLearning to train your workforce has a huge number of benefits but I’ll go through my top five.

First and foremost it offers a cost-effective solution for training your staff. Traditional face-to-face methods can be costly and require attendees to block out a set time to complete it, including travel time to the set location. With the ongoing pandemic, eLearning has proved incredibly valuable, as it has removed the need for face-to-face contact but has allowed employers to ensure their staff are up-to-date with their training.

Secondly, eLearning is simple to use and practical. We live in a world where things need to be more easily accessible and convenient, which may explain the increasing popularity of eLearning. Employees are able to fit it in around their workloads and when they are ready to learn, which will ensure they get more out of it.

This leads me on to my next point – eLearning promotes learner engagement. Presenter-led footage along with quality animations helps bring a course subject to life. Interactive elements such as multiple-choice questions throughout the learning process and an end of course test helps ensure that key learning objectives have been met. Here at iHASCO, our courses take around 6 months to complete from the initial research phase to launch. The script is carefully written to ensure the information is informative and accurate before filming and animation can take place to provide a high quality and succinct training course.

Penultimately, eLearning is easy to administer and keep track of, through a Learning Management System (LMS). In order to encourage completion of essential training, an LMS can send automated training reminder emails as well as keep track of all completed training. It also allows training to be rolled out quickly and efficiently.

Lastly, it provides consistent training to all employees, and offers equal opportunities to the workforce. And it sets an important message to staff as it shows that an employer is fully invested in their employees, which is extremely powerful and can help build a positive and open work culture. Those organisations that take training seriously can gain a competitive edge.

 

How can eLearning help you win business?

It goes without saying that an employee who has received appropriate training will be much more confident in their job role. Happy and engaged employees are likely to be more productive too. For example, in the construction industry workplace safety is paramount and appropriately managing safety risks is not only a legal obligation, but it will also help build a good company reputation among employees and customers to help you win business. Creating a safe working environment and educating your workforce will give you a competitive advantage.

 

What does the future hold for eLearning?

eLearning has evolved a great deal in the last few years. Technological advances have meant that it has become increasingly interactive and engaging. Through many providers it is also accessible to those whose first language is not English (through subtitles), provides closed captions for those who are hard of hearing, and is compatible with screen readers for those with visual impairments. Fast forward even further into the future and Artificial Intelligence will be able to enhance a learner’s individual experience.

The global pandemic has had a profound effect on our lives. If we were undergoing a digital revolution before, we are set to see even further advancements and a world that becomes increasingly more reliant on technology at work and in our day-to-day lives.

 

What should a business do if they are interested in finding out more about eLearning and how it can fit with their organisation?

We would always recommend setting up a free trial with any eLearning provider you are interested in. That way you can see if the training is a good fit for your organisation and staff. Whilst we recognise that eLearning may not cover every last training need, it certainly has a place in supporting your employees with their workplace training. Discuss your needs with any potential supplier to ensure they can meet your requirements.

Get in touch with our friends over at iHASCO today who can set you up with a free, no-obligation trial and support you with eLearning for: