In an evolving landscape of health and safety, there is always something new to learn or adjust when it comes to our day-to-day working practices. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guides asbestos management. It ensures the safe handling and analysis of this hazardous material.
The HSE updated its asbestos analysis guidance in 2021, and you can read it in full here - HSG248 Asbestos: The Analysts' Guide 2021.
HSG248 is the HSE's published guidance for asbestos analysts. It is the authoritative source on asbestos analytical methodologies in the United Kingdom. The 2021 update to HSG248 will consider the results of HSE interventions, changes to analytical processes, and new methods.
Further improvements include clarification on technical and personal safety issues, especially concerning asbestos sampling procedures and 4-stage clearances. The revised edition also addresses asbestos in soil analysis methods. More on that later in the article.
Overall, the guidance helps asbestos analysts to follow their legal obligations. But it may also be helpful for:
In the following article, we will look more closely at some of the updates to asbestos analysis and management in the HSG248 Guidance.
Before we look at what the revised edition says about 4-stage clearances, let's take a quick look at what the process involves.
A 4-stage clearance procedure follows the removal of asbestos materials. Clearances aim to ensure the area is safe for re-occupation by members of the public.
The four stages of clearance are:
The analysis must address the following questions:
The analysis must check for the completeness of dust removal from all surfaces. It should also note the presence of any visible asbestos dust or fibres left inside the work area.
The analyst conducts the asbestos air sampling once they determine no visible dust remains. They will disturb dust to simulate the re-occupation of the work area.
This stage is a final visual check for asbestos debris after removing the enclosure from the work area. Examples include dust that may have fallen off the enclosure, sheeting, or fibres and dust that was missed during the cleaning process.
HSE's Analyst Inspection Programme highlights several issues surrounding 4-stage clearances. It gives particular attention to time pressures and resources.
Many issues result from the analyst's limited involvement in the initial scoping of the work. The revision addresses this by advising allocating more time to 4-stage clearances.
Extra time should allow adequate planning and clarity in the clearing process. Additionally, this time enables analysts to devise a suitable plan of work (POW) and to conduct proper risk assessments.
Another notable area covered by the guidance is the "Differences between asbestos in soils and asbestos in buildings."
ACMs in buildings are usually in the form of identifiable intact, defined products with known asbestos content. But in soil, ACMs are more likely to be in various states of degradation. ,
The decomposition of ACMs leads to asbestos fibres embedded within the soil matrix. Typically, it is unlikely for these fibres to become airborne. However, dried-out surface material may release fibres into the air when disturbed, for example, due to weather, vehicle, human or animal disturbance.
The HSG248 revision recognises some circumstances where asbestos is in soil and on the ground. Workers can be exposed to asbestos during construction or other planned work activities in these cases. As part of the risk assessment, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR) says ACMs must be found.
Surveys are only required when there are reasonable expectations that asbestos may exist. There is no blanket requirement for soil sampling. Interestingly, CAR only applies to work settings. It does not require surveys to be conducted for environmental risk assessments or public health reasons.
The new guidance further explains the process for soil sampling with the aid of a flow chart:
And full details of the methods for soil sampling appear in Appendices 1,2 and 7.
By taking the right soil samples and analysing them, professionals can find places where asbestos is in the soil and take the right steps to get rid of it. This process helps reduce the dangers of asbestos exposure, making sure that workers and people in the area are safe.
The new HSG248 guidance contains significant modifications that will influence any on-site analyst. Analysts must now estimate the clearance time. If this time estimate differs by more than 20%, they must explain why and any mitigating factors. They should also require a handover form from the removal contractor. Failure to present a handover form will result in the clearance failing.
There will be a significant increase in quality control monitoring by the analyst company on their analysts. Monitoring will include increased observed and revisit audits. Witnessed audits will be expanded from four per year to 5% of all four-stage clearances conducted yearly.
Laboratory testing is crucial to ensuring that asbestos analysis is accurate and dependable. Using rigorous testing methods, analysts can tell whether or not a sample has asbestos fibres and how many there are. Recent changes to the HSE HSG248 guidance have significantly changed lab testing practices to keep the best standards of accuracy and reliability.
Some important laboratory modifications will affect analysts as part of the new HSE HSG248 guidance. These include:
By considering the updates from the HSE Asbestos: Analysis Guide, all analysts can ensure the safety of workers and the public.
Asbestos professionals can use the updated edition to enhance their understanding. When analysts follow the rules, workplaces are safer and better protected from the dangers of asbestos exposure.
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