Digging deep into the UK’s lurking asbestos problem

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asbestos in soil

With over 50% of buildings in the UK containing asbestos products, the need for proper asbestos awareness training has never been more important. The threat of asbestos fibre exposure doesn’t stop with buildings, however. Thousands of investigations across the UK have discovered asbestos contaminated soil throughout the country in accordance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Handling asbestos found in buildings must follow health safety guidelines, just as handling asbestos containing materials (ACMs) discovered on the ground or in rubble does. With the increasing construction, developers and construction workers are at risk for exposure to the substance, and with it, to diseases like mesothelioma, pleural disease and asbestosis.

Why does asbestos in soil matter?

The British government has made plans to build a million homes by the year 2020, and a staggering two million more are needed in the following ten years to solve the UK’s housing crisis. There has been much protestation regarding the use of greenfield sites to develop these dwellings, so rehabilitating brownfield land has become the chosen locale for government-funded housing.

It was only in 1999 that the UK government banned all asbestos materials. Many factories relied heavily on asbestos for heat resistance and produced shipbuilding and construction materials from raw asbestos as well. Most demolished commercial and industrial buildings contained asbestos insulation, asbestos cement and various other building materials as well. Much of this was never fully removed from the area. Due to this lack of management, care and basic knowledge of how to remove asbestos from soil, brownfield sites are high-risk areas for soil contamination.

How does this affect the construction industry?

construction industry, asbestos in soil

Over the last few decades, development companies have come upon asbestos in rubble and soil and not been properly alerted to the many risks involved. Indeed, identifying ACMs is highly important before beginning any serious excavation work in order to avoid further disturbing asbestos and thus exposing workers to carcinogenic fibres. While it may be possible to detect a larger ACM piece in building debris, individual fibres are invisible and quite dangerous.

Due to the Compensation Act of 2006, developers are at risk for legal action should they not provide sufficient education to their employees, especially regarding the potential health hazards related to ACMs. To avoid future legal action, providing awareness courses is a mandatory but affordable method to protect workers and management from possible health issues and legal action alike.

UKATA training courses to offer guidance

There has not been an organised approach to determine risk and necessary action, nor a proper education course available, but the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) has recently created two soil-related asbestos courses to assist those who risk exposure. Though varying in scope, both courses will give students a much more significant understanding of asbestos characteristics in soil, how to identify ACMs, assessing risk and keeping safe whilst working on possibly contaminated brownfield sites.

Asbestos in soils training course

To meet legal obligations dictated by the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012), anyone responsible for supervising workers who are at risk of disturbing asbestos during a working day must receive adequate training. This course targets supervisors, architects, managers and CDM (Construction Design and Management) duty holders. Students will be given insight into the identifying of ACMs, risk avoidance,  industry standard emergency procedures, health hazards, soils reports and more.

The course should take six hours (one day) if the applicant has completed their UKATA-Certified Asbestos Awareness training within the last six months.The applicant will need to retake the initial asbestos awareness training should their training date fall outside of the six-month period.  If the applicant has not received any prior asbestos awareness training, they can expect nine hours (1.5 days) of classroom instruction that also covers the basic asbestos awareness requirements. Among the course materials are the nature and properties of asbestos, effects on human health, types of ACMs used throughout buildings, laws and how to handle a situation where an ACM is present.

Asbestos in soils awareness course

Any individual who works on brownfield construction sites is obligated to take this awareness course. It will go over legal requirements, how to identify ACMs in rubble and soil, asbestos in soil risk assessment and legislative measures available to keep employees safe. This course takes approximately half a day to complete if the applicant has completed UKATA-certified asbestos awareness training within the last six months.

Help protect yourself and your team with Bainbridge E-learning

soil asbestos training course, Bainbridge E-learning

Has your construction team been certified? If this is the first time you’re dealing with asbestos and have to start at the beginning, consider Bainbridge E-learning’s asbestos awareness training course. With over 15 years of asbestos training and surveying experience, Bainbridge E-learning will prepare you and your team for UKATA’s Soil Training and Awareness courses.  

 

Learn more about Bainbridge UKATA Asbestos Awareness Training courses online.