HSE to produce asbestos awareness guidance for social landlords

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The risks posed by the presence of asbestos in older buildings has given rise to new guidance on how local councils and housing associations should deal with the substance, should it be discovered within their housing stock.

An increasing number of social landlords are being taken to court by residents whose health could have been potentially affected by the disturbance of asbestos.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) hope to reduce the dangers posed to tenants by producing specific guidelines for tackling the problem. This would include the circumstances in which local councils and housing associations should inform residents of the presence of asbestos.

The dangers of asbestos – an ongoing problem

Insider Housing reports that Savills UK, a leading housing consultancy, is setting out the new guidance to help social landlords understand what is legally required from them.

The problem is potentially very significant, with reports that asbestos was used in the construction of six out of ten flats built between 1965 and 1984. The use of asbestos was only made illegal in this country in 2000.

Without specific guidance, this ongoing problem would only worsen. Asbestos awareness is the first step in tackling a dangerous situation that not only involves workers and tradespeople, but potentially hundreds of people residing in a single block of flats.

Furthermore, statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive show that 2,535 people died in 2012 from Mesothelioma, due to historical exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer which attacks the lining of the lungs, with asbestos being the primary cause.

Housing Trust fined £10,000 for breach of regulations

A Trust that provides care and housing for the elderly was one of three companies fined in 2014 for putting residents and staff at risk when a new lift was installed in one of their buildings.

On removing asbestos boards from a lift shaft, asbestos fibres were released, exposing workers and residents to serious risk. Health and Safety Executive Inspector, Natalie Wright, said:

“This incident was entirely preventable, had the companies carried out their respective safety duties.”

Asbestos Awareness training should be prioritised

Although the new HSE guidance is welcomed by many, specific Asbestos Awareness training courses are also available in the UK for workers likely to come into contact with the substance. They provide the knowledge needed to recognise asbestos in all its forms, and understand its likely whereabouts within residential and commercial buildings.

Online Asbestos Awareness training courses are straightforward to complete. They can be taken as and when is convenient for the candidate, and provide in-depth information that allows a better understanding of the potential health and safety issues.

Although aimed at workers and people in the ‘trades’ this type of course, also known as Category A training, would benefit employees of housing trusts and local councils. Our courses are recognised by UKATA, and meet their stringent requirements in terms of course content that is consistently updated.