Asbestos is a collective term for several naturally occurring minerals linked to severe health issues. While asbestos is now entirely banned in the United Kingdom, asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are often present in older buildings. There is a danger when these materials are damaged, and their fibres are released into the air and inhaled. Workers are at risk of developing various life-threatening health problems such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
If a workplace contains asbestos, an employer must ensure that an appropriate asbestos risk assessment is carried out before the work begins. This risk assessment will cover information on the risks present and the precautions that need to be implemented to keep everyone safe.
This article will look at the steps involved in completing an asbestos risk assessment and who can carry it out.
An asbestos risk assessment involves investigating possible risks to health and determining what safeguards are required to do the task safely. The risk assessment should be completed by a knowledgeable and trained individual aware of the risks involved with asbestos and what measures will make the working environment safe.
Read 'Top 9 questions on asbestos, answered' to find more information on the dangers of exposure to asbestos and cancer risk.
To identify appropriate safety measures, a risk assessment must be thorough and carried out in advance to allow enough time to implement necessary safety measures.
A risk assessment can be carried out by anyone if they are a competent person with knowledge of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and their requirements. It could be an employer, a specialist, or any person involved with the premises who has received relevant training.
If you plan on learning more about asbestos, consider taking our Asbestos Awareness course. It contains information on all the relevant legislation and regulations and guidance on what to do upon finding asbestos at work.
There are five essential steps to an asbestos risk assessment:
One of the first things an assessor should do is visually inspect the site to identify areas where asbestos is present.
They should also review the building's documentation. Ideally, this documentation will include an asbestos survey and a follow-up report detailing the type of asbestos-containing materials present, their condition and how likely they will be disturbed.
Then outline in detail the risks present in the workplace, including:
The next step of completing an asbestos risk assessment involves identifying who may be at risk.
Those who work directly or close to ACMs will be more likely to experience harm than those who do not. As a result, an assessor must evaluate the expected level of exposure and risks associated with each building area.
Also, it may be the case that a work activity puts members of the public at risk too. If so, the asbestos risk assessment must identify this and list any necessary safety measures to protect them.
Consider taking our online Risk Assessment training course for more information on conducting a risk assessment.
An asbestos risk assessment must include a list of all the control measures required to ensure you can carry out the work safely.
In most cases, it is impossible to eliminate the risks associated with asbestos-containing materials. Instead, the control measures identified should aim to reduce a person's exposure to asbestos. For example, they may involve:
A dedicated contractor with the necessary tools and knowledge should dispose of asbestos waste. If this is the case, arrangements must be made with them before any work is carried out to prevent any unsafe storage or disposal of asbestos.
Once completed, an employer must record their risk assessment and its significant results if they have five or more employees and keep a copy of this assessment on-site for all employees to view.
They must also inform their employees of the contents of the risk assessment, including:
Keeping a risk assessment up to date is vital because any undocumented changes may introduce new hazards to a workplace.
For this reason, a risk assessment must be reviewed regularly and under some circumstances, including:
Conducting an asbestos risk assessment is crucial in ensuring the safety of workers and others at risk of exposure to asbestos-containing materials. By following the five steps outlined in this article, employers can effectively identify and manage the risks associated with asbestos, reducing the chances of exposure, and protecting the health and safety of their employees and others.
Find answers to 10 asbestos FAQs with our expert guide. Learn about training, certification, identification, detection, and disposal.