Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, so it is crucial that those who might be exposed to asbestos at work know the dangers and ways to protect themselves and others from this hidden killer.

Workplace Law employs an array of talented Health and Safety consultants who are qualified to inform and advise on asbestos. Head of Health and Safety, Simon Toseland, is qualified in Level 3 Asbestos Management from the Royal Society of Public Health, and with Health and Safety consultants, Renier Barnard and Maria Anderson set to further the company’s portfolio of competencies, Workplace Law is aiming for a trio of asbestos qualifications.

Ren and Maria both completed the P405 Management of Asbestos in Buildings four-day course in September and are currently awaiting exam results. Workplace Law recognises the importance of setting a minimum requirement competency level as consultants and Construction, Design Management Coordinators (CDMC) – these asbestos management qualifications give scope to go above and beyond typical CDMC requirements.

The P405 Management of Asbestos in Buildings qualification gives practical knowledge and skills, key for roles working in refurbishment, including conducting asbestos surveys and interpreting and implementing asbestos management plans.

With the shocking figures demonstrating the severity of the dangers of asbestos, Simon Toseland comments:

“The HSE estimates that approximately 4,000 people die each year from asbestos-related ill health. Many organisations believe that just by having an asbestos survey, they have done enough to fulfil their duties. Many fail to realise that they need to develop an asbestos management plan which identifies how they will manage the risk and communicate the information.”

The potentially hazardous substance was widely used as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s for a variety of purposes and was ideal for fireproofing and insulation. Any building built before 2000 can contain asbestos, and two weeks ago a school in Wales was closed after a structural report discovered that the building contained asbestos. It has since been reported that a specialist contractor has advised Caerphilly Council to consider demolishing the school.

One incident can often go unnoticed; however according to Cenric Clement-Evans, an asbestos expert and lawyer at Cardiff-based law firm NewLaw, three-quarters of schools in Wales may contain asbestos.

He commented:

“We believe that about 75% of Welsh schools may contain asbestos. The problem is that whilst individual schools should have their own asbestos register, it is not clear how many schools are affected and the extent of the presence of asbestos. I believe we need a central register in Wales to assess precisely how widespread the risk is.

“Those working in or attending schools are at risk of developing the fatal cancer mesothelioma in the future if asbestos – which was widely used in school buildings especially but not exclusively in the 1960s – is inadvertently disturbed.

“Increasingly teachers, other school workers and even those exposed as school children, are dying from mesothelioma.

“We need to assess the extent of the risk before we can begin to manage the asbestos. One thing is for certain; we need to manage the legacy of asbestos in Wales for the sake of our teachers and schoolchildren.”