A Welsh builder has been given a six month custodial sentence after being found guilty of exposing three of his workers to asbestos inhalation when working on a commercial unit in Colwyn Bay in 2012. His company had been employed by the unit’s owner to remove asbestos prior to the building being put up for sale and he began work, despite being unlicensed to undertake such a procedure. Fortunately, a contractor who held the licence became aware of the work and alerted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). A significant quantity of insulating board composed of asbestos had been removed before the HSE became aware of the situation.

Ignorance is no defence

The builder pleaded guilty to breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. These regulations are very stringent and rightly so – there is no known ‘minimum exposure’ to asbestos as in some cases as little as one single fibre can cause debilitating or life limiting illnesses, sometimes as much as sixty years later. By not adhering to the regulations, by ignorance or design, the builder (who worked on the site himself) has essentially condemned himself and his employees to a lifetime of worry as well as potentially an early death or severe disablement. There is no treatment for asbestos inhalation once it has occurred – only time will tell the outcome.

Adequate training is vital

UKATA (the UK Asbestos Training Association) has devised a number of courses to alert anyone who works with or may come into contact occasionally with asbestos as to its dangers and what to do to prevent exposure. Although asbestos has been banned in all buildings erected since 1999, it still occurs, sometimes in significant quantities, in older structures so anyone who is involved in renovations or demolition should as a matter of course receive proper training. The most in-depth is for those who want to become licensed removers of asbestos and this involves how to identify, remove and dispose of it safely. Other courses are less far-reaching but give very precise training on how to identify asbestos in its many different forms and how to deal with small amounts effectively. All training courses deal with health and safety outside the actual workplace, such as how to decontaminate hair, skin and clothing to prevent even one fibre reaching any other person.

Training is easy to arrange

UKATA feel – quite rightly – that no one with even the slightest chance of encountering asbestos should do so untrained and this is why their range of asbestos training courses is all-encompassing, from Asbestos Awareness for managers, designed for those who supervise people at the ‘sharp end’ right up to the very comprehensive training for those who will be removing large amounts. Boss Training finds that the general Asbestos Awareness training courses and asbestos removal training courses are very popular, giving staff who may find small amounts when undertaking other work – plumbers and electricians in particular benefit from these – the added peace of mind which they deserve.