If you work in construction or any other profession where you may disturb asbestos you should be trained in asbestos awareness as a minimum. But how often should that training take place, and how long does an asbestos awareness certificate last?
Asbestos awareness certificates usually expire after 1 year. Regular refreshers are needed because knowledge fades over time, and asbestos is so deadly that accidental exposure can be fatal. And the damage is irreversible.
Is your asbestos knowledge up to date? Test yourself with these 10 asbestos awareness questions and answers explained.
Asbestos is known as the hidden killer. It was used heavily in construction products until asbestos was eventually banned completely in the UK in 1999. But it still hides in buildings that were constructed or refurbished before the ban. And if you disturb asbestos, it could be fatal.
Around 5,000 people die each year in the UK from asbestos exposure. It's the biggest workplace killer.
If you work in construction, you need to be aware of the dangers of asbestos, and how to avoid it. This is why asbestos awareness training is so important. Lives are, quite literally, at risk.
Asbestos can be found in any building built before the year 2000 (houses, factories, offices, schools, hospitals etc) and causes around 5000 deaths every year.
But once you have taken an asbestos awareness training course, do you ever need to take it again? Well, yes. Probably. Most asbestos awareness certificates expire after one year. This is in line with refresher training for licensable and non-licensable work which should be given at least every year.
Asbestos awareness training is suitable for tradesmen like electricians, plumbers, joiners, painters, other trades and general construction workers.
So if you are still likely to disturb or come across asbestos materials in your work, then you should refresh your asbestos awareness annually. For asbestos awareness refresher training, a realistic, common-sense approach to refreshing knowledge and skills, based on a judgement of individual abilities and training needs, is required.
The HSE recommend that some form of a refresher should be given, as necessary, to help ensure knowledge of asbestos awareness is maintained. This is usually every 12 months, but frequency could depend on the level of potential exposure, and the risk of exposure. Remember, asbestos awareness training is only intended to help employees avoid carrying out work that might disturb asbestos or asbestos-containing materials.
Why is asbestos awareness training so important?
Asbestos awareness training is the most basic level of asbestos training. But it is perhaps the most important level of training. Because it gives those with little knowledge of asbestos, the information they need to stay safe at work. It doesn't train you how to remove or work with asbestos. You need a higher level of training for that and it is often licensed work carried out under very strict conditions. Asbestos awareness is more about asbestos avoidance. Preventing disturbance, and making sure accidental exposure doesn't happen.
Asbestos awareness simply helps workers identify where they are likely to find asbestos, understand the risks, and what to do if they find or suspect asbestos is present. This basic understanding of asbestos as a hazard and the risks caused by asbestos is vital, simply because disturbing asbestos can have fatal consequences.
10.—(1) Every employer must ensure that any employee employed by that employer is given adequate information, instruction and training where that employee—
(a) is or is liable to be exposed to asbestos, or if that employee supervises such employees so that those employees are aware...
Asbestos awareness training helps workers know how to avoid accidental asbestos disturbance and protect themselves. But why do we need to refresh this knowledge every year? Surely once you know, you know? What is the reason for refreshers?
Well, there's a reason asbestos is known as the hidden killer. It's hidden. You don't know it's there. When your mind is on other tasks on-site, it can be forgotten about. You can't easily identify asbestos, and you don't get an instant reaction when exposed. The consequences and health damage from asbestos can take years, and even decades, to appear.
So it's easy to forget about asbestos when you are busy at work. But this is why asbestos is known as the hidden killer. Out of sight, and out of mind, until it's too late.
Through keeping knowledge fresh, awareness can be kept high. You can't be expected to remember all the information you learned from a course taken months or even years ago. So regular refresher training is important.
Most course certificates expire after some time has passed. That could be 1 year, 3 years, 5 years or 10. Because a certificate is used to prove knowledge. To show you are at a certain level of understanding. But while that might be true at the time the certificate was issued, as time passes, your knowledge and understanding can drop. Especially if it's a subject you don't think, use, read or talk about a lot.
This is also why an asbestos awareness certificate may only last a year before it expires. After 12 months, you might not remember all of the information you learned on the course. Asbestos may be at the back of your mind. But it could also be lurking around the next corner, or be hidden behind the next wall you drill into.
Annual asbestos awareness refresher training can help keep the risks at the forefront of everyone's mind on site. It may even be useful to have more frequent toolbox talks throughout the year.
Once you are asbestos aware, remember to maintain this awareness through regular refreshers. And if you need to refresh your knowledge right now, you can watch a 5-minute toolbox talk on asbestos below.
Need to get your team up to speed on asbestos? Download the free asbestos awareness toolbox talk handout.