Last month saw the launch of the HSE's #DustBuster campaign. Under the initiative, HSE inspectors will be carrying out visits to construction sites to review whether businesses have measures in place to protect their workers' lungs from materials such as asbestos, wood dust and silica. They will specifically be investigating whether construction workers know the risks associated with dust, how to plan their work and how to use the right controls.
The HSE has highlighted the health risks of workers' developing diseases as a result of regularly breathing construction dust and have stressed that whilst the dangers of asbestos are widely publicised and the substance was banned in 1999, the majority of buildings constructed before this time contain asbestos which needs to be controlled and managed effectively so as not to pose a danger to health.
The HSE has emphasised that there are simple steps that can be taken by construction workers to prevent the spread and inhalation of dust. Firstly, it is necessary to plan the work effectively. If cutting and grinding tools can be avoided, do not use them. Secondly, stop dust becoming airborne. Both wet cutting and on-tool extraction methods can be effective to prevent the spread of dust. Finally, ensure that a suitable face mask is being used in terms of quality and fit.
The launch of the HSE's campaign coincides with a recent prosecution after asbestos was disturbed at a Primary School. An environmental health officer was carrying out a routine food inspection at Landsowne Primary School in Kent when they noticed what appeared to be an asbestos rope hanging from the ceiling.
A prohibition notice was served and an investigation revealed that the asbestos flue and rope were disturbed when the school was under the control of Kent County Council some 18 months earlier. It was found that there was insufficient asbestos management training in place and the Council failed to prevent exposure to the substance.
Kent County Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 10(1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £200,000 plus costs of £21,500. For a public body, this represents a heavy fine.
Asbestos is an issue in focus for the HSE and to find out more information on how to ensure your business is prepared for a visit, click here to view the HSE's free guidance.