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Poor asbestos awareness led to fine for heating engineer

It’s not just commercial properties that present an ongoing danger from asbestos. Any residential home built after 1999 could contain the substance, posing a potential health risk to tradespeople and homeowners alike.

The dangerous presence of asbestos in our buildings was highlighted recently when a self-employed heating engineer was taken to court by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE is the UK body tasked with monitoring the handling of asbestos, and ensuring that UK employers provide appropriate training for their workforce.

What about self-employed tradespeople?

Although the self-employed are not legally obliged to undergo asbestos training courses, it is highly beneficial for anyone whose work could bring them into contact with asbestos. This fact was demonstrated recently when a heating engineer was prosecuted after removing pipework lagged with asbestos-containing materials.

The engineer had been hired to install a new heating system, but failed to take preventative measures to address the potential presence of asbestos. Having removed the pipework and lagging with an electrically-powered saw, he proceeded to carry the pipes through the owners’ house to the driveway.

With no risk assessment having been carried out, and no thought to possibly bringing in licensed contractors to assess the situation and remove the pipework, he allowed asbestos dust and fibres to permeate his customer’s home.

A full decontamination of the property is now required, and the owners have had to move out temporarily for health and safety reasons.

How UKATA online training would have helped

Had the engineer undergone asbestos awareness training, he would have realised that the lagged pipework posed a potential risk, not only to his own health and safety, but also to that of the property owners.

This type of training allows tradespeople and others working on renovations or property refurbishments to recognise asbestos in its many forms, and take the most appropriate action should they come across it.

Asbestos removal

Sometimes the safest way to proceed is to do nothing at all. Licensed contractors follow a set procedure and should be contacted to carry out the safe removal of asbestos. In this instance, a fine of £5,000 plus £3,000 in costs was given to the heating engineer after he pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974.

It’s not only tradespeople who need to be aware of the dangers of asbestos, however. Architects, surveyors and structural engineers could all come across the substance in their normal line of work.

Asbestos training courses

If you work in the trades and are self-employed, you can take an asbestos awareness course online or in a classroom environment. UKATA online training courses take around 90 minutes, and there is a quiz at the end to test your knowledge.

You’ll be able to download a UKATA asbestos certificate on successful completion, and demonstrate that you take your own and your customers’ health and safety seriously.