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  • Writer's picturePaul Beaumont

Secondary asbestos exposure

As many will be aware, exposure to asbestos can and does cause some devastating health effects. To prevent these, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR12) has specific duties, such as identifying and controlling this risk, removing or preventing exposure and the release of asbestos and where this is for some reason, not possible, reducing exposure and the release of asbestos along with a specific requirement to have suitable and sufficient training to ensure that people are aware of asbestos, that includes what to look out for and how to avoid it.

Things don’t always go as planned! Even with strict observation of CAR12, due to the amount, how and where asbestos was used, unplanned and uncontrolled exposures do unfortunately still occur. The main point when this does happen is control.

The HSE has provided some good guidance for such eventualities within HSG 210, the Asbestos Essentials, EM1, This can be found following the link below:

As mentioned, control is key… if you believe that you have disturbed asbestos*:

· Prevent others from entering the area.

· Reduce your time of exposure- leave the area safely.

· Prevent the spread of any potentially released fibres – IF SAFE TO DO SO, or get this done ASAP. -Close windows and doors and turn off aircon and air management systems.

· Remove outer garments of clothing close to the exposure location, DO NOT GO HOME IN CONTAMINATED CLOTHING, don disposable clothing where required/possible and wash thoroughly using any means available. Do not return to the area until informed in writing that it is safe, even to recover personal possessions or tools.

· Removed clothing and potentially contaminated items need to be bagged, or at least placed in isolation.

· Get help – contact your supervisor, employer or a reputable consultant.

· When asbestos exposure does occur, it’s time to act, not delay.

Asbestos fibres are microscopic, they’re invisible to the human eye, and they have no odour or taste so just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they’re not there, presume they are!

Once everything is in control, then the situation can be addressed, and the area remediated and made safe to be returned to normal use.

If we follow everything as stated, then just where does this “secondary exposure” come into play?

Unfortunately, not every asbestos exposure is instantly or even sometimes at all recognised.

People can work on or with asbestos without ever knowing, after all, asbestos isn’t a poison or a toxin, exposure to it does not show instantly, it is a carcinogen, meaning that diseases relating to asbestos exposure can take decades to be diagnosed.

In such unrecognised #asbestos exposure events, the worker may return home with debris on their clothes, their skin and in their hair. They could be getting into a vehicle after the exposure with their colleagues, on public transport or may attend social premises directly after work, the gym, a pub, or a gathering.

There’s also the issue of the occupiers of the premises where this unrecognised event took place, should they return and see copious levels of dust all over the place, they would more than likely commence cleaning up, using domestic vacuums, cloths, wipes etc., with no actual dust control methods thus spreading the asbestos fibres even further and creating more exposure.

To add further to the scenario, what of the contaminated clothing, who will launder this? Then there’s the location where that clothing was removed will it ever be recognised as a potentially contaminated area? Or if they do suddenly realise or are informed of the exposure, where will they decontaminate and who will clean the area on completion?

As you can see, from just one event, many can be affected, and the records show this to be the case. A quick search of the internet for #Mesothelioma victims brings up countless numbers of cases where the cause of the disease, the actual exposure isn’t known, or even worse, where the victim believes that their disease was due to this secondary exposure from work colleagues, or even their

This is why strict observation of the Control of Asbestos Regulations pays dividends, if we follow the regulations, we have a much-reduced chance of inadvertent and uncontrolled asbestos exposure occurring. Accepted, we don’t live in an ideal world where every risk can be removed or avoided, but we do live in a world where we can identify and control them.

For more information on asbestos, we host many open courses across the UK every month, from #Asbestosawareness to Asbestos - Duty to Manage. 1-11 Compliance Group Ltd are here to assist in all matters relating to asbestos, so if you have any need for advice, training, surveys, action plans etc. enquire now.

1-11 Compliance Group Ltd also supplies “Asbestos Emergency Kits”. These kits contain all that is required for events such as the uncontrolled disturbance of asbestos. For more information on these kits, or on our asbestos sampling kits, contact us now.

*This is a summary of the contents of EM1 of HSG210, the Asbestos Essentials, the full document should always be understood and used or your own suitable and sufficient procedures followed.

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