Speakers at a recent conference held by charity Asbestos Action Tayside have reiterated the fact that exposure to asbestos is not only a historical issue. The continued presence of asbestos in all buildings constructed prior to 2000 may cause ongoing health issues for future generations.
Many campaign groups fear an ‘explosion’ of asbestos-related illness, with its existence in schools being of particular concern. In spite of their efforts to pressure the government into taking action to deal with the issue, it is understood that at least 75% of state schools in Britain still contain asbestos in one form or another.
Asbestos-containing materials have been used for ceiling tiles, partition walls, central heating boilers and insulation for pipework, amongst other things. Not only are teachers and school support staff at risk, but pupils could be unwittingly exposed to the lethal substance on a daily basis.
Mesothelioma is a particular danger
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, and is known to be caused by exposure to asbestos fibres and dust. The death of an art teacher from this disease raised concerns that using drawing pins to display childrens’ art work on the walls of her classroom was the potential cause.
Gina Lees died from Mesothelioma at the age of 51, having worked as a teacher for over 30 years. Research into the release of asbestos carried out by Mrs Lees’ husband Michael, showed that with each use of a drawing pin, 6,000 deadly asbestos fibres could be released into the air.
The government is said to have designated in excess of £6 billion to deal with the problem of asbestos in schools. Clearly, asbestos awareness remains a vital issue for UK tradespeople carrying out their work in all commercial, public and residential buildings constructed before 2000.
Health and Safety Executive regulations on asbestos training
The United Kingdom was one of the last European countries to ban the use of asbestos for construction. Its use was not made illegal until 1999, making the possibility of coming across the substance highly likely for those working on commercial or residential projects built prior to 2000.
The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) was established to monitor the standard of asbestos training courses on offer, and to ensure that providers were using the most up-to-date information.
Different categories of HSE asbestos training
UKATA online training courses allow workers to understand the ramifications of coming into contact with asbestos, and why they should leave it undisturbed. Calling a licensed contractor to deal with it appropriately is vital to avoid the danger to health. Specific asbestos training courses are available for each category of this licensed work.
On finishing a course, the HSE asbestos certificate subsequently provided offers proof of successful completion and compliance by both the employer, who is obliged to provide this type of training, and the worker who has demonstrated commitment to health and safety.