Asbestos is a hazardous and carcinogenic mineral that was once commonly used worldwide in various industries. Over 60 countries have banned the usage of this mineral.
It was banned in the UK in 1999, making purchasing, selling, exporting, or importing anything containing asbestos illegal. The ban was implemented in 1999; however, many residential and commercial properties still contain asbestos.
According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there are approximately 5,000 asbestos-related deaths yearly in the UK. The mineral has so many adverse effects that the substance is now highly regulated in the UK.
Due to the hazardous nature of asbestos, even cleaners working on asbestos sites face significant risks. This calls for proper training to ensure the cleaners’ safety and effectively remove asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).
In this blog, we will understand what Asbestos is and discover the types of training Asbestos cleaners need and the importance of training for cleaners.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral of flexible fibres resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion. Although the mineral is resourceful in numerous products, it also contributes to asbestos exposure toxicity. The mineral is commonly found in construction materials, clothes, papers, cement, plastic, and other materials.
Steps Involved in Asbestos Cleaning
Asbestos cleaning refers to safely removing and disposing of ACMs to protect human health and the environment. The method of asbestos cleaning involves the following key steps:
1. Risk Assessment
Before beginning any cleaning or removal work, it is important to conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify the presence of ACMs, assess the condition, and determine the right control measures.
2. Appropriate Asbestos Removal Selection
The second step involves choosing the right technique for asbestos removal. There are wet as well as dry removal methods. Wet removal involves the application of a liquid to minimise the release of fibres, whereas the dry removal method requires using specialised tools to extract ACMs.
An asbestos removal worker works explicitly with asbestos, removing it from various structures such as walls, ceilings, beams, etc.
3. Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Asbestos site cleaners must wear appropriate PPE to protect themselves from the adverse effects of asbestos. PPE includes disposable coveralls, gloves, safety glasses, and respirators.
4. Containment and Encapsulation
The removal process needs meticulous attention and strict containment measures to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres. This step may involve sealing off the area, setting up air filtration systems, and employing ways to minimise cross-contamination.
After the completion of the removal work, thorough decontamination procedures are followed to ensure that workers and their equipment are free from asbestos fibres. It includes using designated decontamination units, showering, and properly disposing of contaminated clothing and equipment.
6. Waste Disposal
Asbestos waste is hazardous and must be disposed of according to specific regulations. It is typically double-bagged in specially labelled containers and transported to approved disposal facilities for safe and proper disposal.
Legal Requirements and Regulations for Handling Asbestos
Adherence to legal requirements and regulations is essential throughout the asbestos cleaning process. This includes compliance with local, state, and national laws governing asbestos removal, waste disposal, and worker safety.
Professional asbestos cleaning companies and their workers undergo specialised training to acquire knowledge and skills for safe and effective removal. Training covers asbestos awareness, proper handling techniques, personal protective equipment usage, and emergency procedures.
By following strict protocols and employing trained professionals, asbestos cleaning aims to eliminate or minimise the health risks associated with asbestos exposure, protect workers and the public, and prevent further contamination of the environment.
Types of Asbestos Training
According to HSE, there are three levels of Asbestos training, which are as follows:
- Asbestos Awareness Training – Category A
- Non-Licensed Asbestos Training – Category B
- Licensable Work with Asbestos – Category C
Asbestos Awareness Training – Category A
Asbestos awareness training is a beginner-level training specifically designed for people who do not directly work with ACMs but may be exposed to their risks. The training focuses on creating awareness amongst the workers on how to avoid the risks associated with asbestos exposure. This training provides adequate training only for workers working in facilities with undisturbed asbestos.
Some job roles that may require asbestos awareness training include:
- Construction workers
- Demolition workers
- HVAC engineers
- Electricians, etc.
Non-Licensed Asbestos Training – Category B
Non-Licensed Asbestos Training, including Notifiable Non-Licensed Work (NNLW), is designed for those working directly with disturbing ACMs. Such workers need more information, instruction, and training than basic asbestos training.
This training prepares those responsible for safely carrying out non-licensed and notifiable non-licensed work when they work with disturbing asbestos.
The training teaches control measures which minimise risks, work methods, risk assessments, using PPE, handling wastes, and emergency procedures.
Some job roles that may require this type of training include:
- Drilling holes in structures with ACMs.
- Repairing or cleaning roofing with asbestos.
- Removing floor tiles containing asbestos.
- Repairing damages in asbestos insulating boards.
- Maintenance work on items containing asbestos, such as conveyor belts, electric cables, bonded rubber, etc.
Licensable Work with Asbestos – Category C
Licensed contractors have the duty to manage asbestos and they must perform tasks that involve dealing with, disturbing, fixing, and eliminating asbestos and materials containing asbestos, including overseeing such activities. These contractors must undergo suitable training and gain practical experience before engaging in authorised work. These contractors must show that they can safely perform activities involving asbestos, including the physical handling of asbestos.
As per the HSE guidelines, licensable activities involving asbestos consist of the following:
- Eliminating sprayed coatings containing asbestos (limpet asbestos).
- Any work that entails handling loose-fill insulation containing asbestos.
- Tasks involving asbestos millboard.
- Removal or other activities that may disturb pipe lagging made of asbestos.
- Cleaning up substantial amounts of loose or fine debris containing asbestos-containing material dust. This applies when the work is not sporadic or low intensity, when the control limit will be exceeded, or when it is not a short-term project.
- Working on asbestos insulating boards provided that the risk assessment determines it will not be a short-term assignment.
This type of training encompasses a comprehensive range of specific subjects essential for adequately preparing licensed contractors to carry out the high-risk tasks associated with their role.
Training Courses for Workers at Risk of Exposure to ACMs
Training courses that cover asbestos identification, risk assessment, proper containment and removal techniques, personal protective equipment usage, waste management, and legal regulations are necessary for workers who may be exposed to ACMs, especially cleaners.
Here are a few courses:
Basic Awareness Training
Anyone who may be exposed to ACMs while working is legally obligated to receive asbestos training. Basic asbestos training enables workers to identify areas of high risk, potential damage, and relevant asbestos regulations. It equips them with the necessary expertise to safeguard themselves and others from the dangers of asbestos exposure.
COSHH Training for Cleaners
Exposure to hazardous work environments can lead to fatal diseases, such as asbestosis. It is common for businesses to utilise substances or products that have the potential to cause harm to employees, contractors, and others.
COSHH training for cleaners is highly recommended for individuals responsible for storing, using, handling, or transporting hazardous substances, especially asbestos cleaners. The training course is particularly relevant for those working in manufacturing, cleaning, healthcare, transportation, utilities, or office settings.
Significance of Training for Asbestos Cleaners
Following are some of the many reasons why asbestos training is crucial for those responsible for asbestos cleaning:
· Ensures Personal Safety
The foremost reason for providing proper training to cleaners is to safeguard their health and well-being. Asbestos fibres, when disturbed, become airborne and can be inhaled, leading to severe respiratory diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Training helps cleaners understand the risks of asbestos exposure, recognise ACMs, and adopt necessary safety measures.
· Compliance with Regulations
Training ensures that cleaners know the relevant laws and regulations governing asbestos removal. By complying with these regulations, not only do cleaners protect themselves, but they also mitigate legal risks for their employers.
· Proper Handling and Removal Techniques
Through training, cleaners learn specialised techniques such as wet and dry removal methods, containment and encapsulation procedures, and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). By employing correct strategies, cleaners minimise the release of asbestos fibres and reduce the risk of contamination.
· Effective Risk Assessment
Training enables cleaners to identify potential hazards, evaluate the condition of ACMs, and determine appropriate control measures. By conducting comprehensive risk assessments, cleaners can develop effective strategies to minimise exposure risks and ensure a safe working environment.
· Emergency Preparedness
Proper training prepares the cleaners for any emergencies. It teaches them about evacuation plans and the use of emergency equipment. This allows them to respond promptly and confidently in case of any incident, protecting themselves and others on the site.
· Protecting the Environment and Public Health
Cleaners learn proper waste disposal techniques, containment strategies, and decontamination procedures through training. By implementing these practices, cleaners help safeguard public health and prevent the spread of asbestos contamination beyond the work site.
Asbestos is a highly hazardous substance, and those responsible for cleaning asbestos sites require comprehensive training. Proper training sessions are crucial for asbestos cleaners to ensure their safety, meticulous execution of asbestos removal procedures, and compliance with legal rules and regulations. It provides them with the skills, knowledge and awareness they need to minimise risks associated with asbestos exposure. Therefore, employers must prioritise training programs for their cleaners to create a safer and healthier environment for those involved in asbestos-cleaning operations.