5th March, 2024

How Long Does An Asbestos Awareness Certificate Last?

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? Find out if your certificate is valid.

How Long Does An Asbestos Awareness Certificate Last? header image

Asbestos awareness training should be refreshed every year.

Asbestos awareness training is the minimum level of asbestos training, and it is a legal requirement for many workers. Especially construction workers. But anyone who might disturb asbestos needs asbestos awareness training.

10.—(1) Every employer must ensure that any employee employed by that employer is given adequate information, instruction and training where that employee—

  1. is or is liable to be exposed to asbestos, or if that employee supervises such employees so that those employees are aware...

This level of asbestos training isn't for people who intend to work with asbestos. Asbestos awareness is for people who work where asbestos might be present and who need to avoid it - this includes construction workers, refurbishment, maintenance and other trades.

Around 5,000 people die each year in the UK from asbestos exposure. It's the biggest workplace killer. This is why asbestos awareness training is so important. Lives are, quite literally, at risk.

asbestos deaths chart

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.

But how often should that training take place, and how long does an asbestos awareness certificate last?

How often do you need asbestos awareness training?

Usually, asbestos awareness training is repeated each year. This repeated training is known as a refresher, as it is used to refresh the worker's knowledge.

While asbestos awareness training is a legal requirement, there is no legal requirement to repeat the training each year. However, it is industry practice, especially in the construction industry, and many health and safety accreditation schemes will ask for asbestos awareness training to be taken annually.

There is no legal requirement to repeat a formal refresher awareness training course every 12 months. However, some form of refresher awareness should be given, as necessary [...]

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.

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.

danger asbestos sign

Asbestos awareness is more about asbestos avoidance. Preventing disturbance, and making sure accidental exposure doesn't happen.

Just because you have taken asbestos awareness training at some time in the past, doesn't mean you can forget about it. If you are one of the workers who needs asbestos awareness training, you must keep that training up to date.

Is your asbestos knowledge up to date? Test yourself with these 10 asbestos awareness questions and answers explained.

Asbestos awareness 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.

How long is the certificate valid?

Asbestos awareness certificates usually expire after 1 year.

The certificate might not have an expiration date on it, but it should have the date the course was completed. Usually, the certificate will only be considered to be valid for one year from that date.

This isn't unique to asbestos awareness. 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.

And remember, asbestos awareness training is for workers who don't work with asbestos. It's for people who need to avoid asbestos. So asbestos isn't going to be what your work is focused on.

Asbestos awareness training is suitable for tradesmen like electricians, plumbers, joiners, painters, other trades and general construction workers. And that's what you'll be doing at work, installing cables, connecting pipes, building and decorating.

electrican at work

But while you're busy doing your job, you might start to forget about that hidden deadly danger found in thousands of UK buildings.

And that's 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 in 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. And it may even be useful to have more frequent toolbox talks throughout the year.

What is an asbestos awareness refresher?

A refresher course is often the same course, repeated later, to refresh your knowledge and understanding.

While there is no legal requirement to refresh asbestos awareness every year, asbestos training for licensable and non-licensable work is refreshed every year, so this has become the standard interval for awareness refreshers too.

But it does mean that asbestos awareness refreshers are a little more flexible.

For example, you could:

It helps if you have a quiz or a test so you can check understanding of the course, and so you can provide certificates of completion, but it's really up to you and your assessment of training needs.

Refresher awareness could be given as e-learning or as part of other health and safety updates, rather than through a formal training course.

The simplest way to provide a refresher is to repeat the asbestos awareness course, so you can check if your team still has the same knowledge and understanding. For example, if pass rates or scores go down, you might identify additional training requirements.

Why do you need asbestos awareness refreshers?

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?

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.

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.

And there's a reason asbestos is known as the hidden killer.

It's hidden.

You don't know asbestos is there. You can't easily identify asbestos, even if you know what you are looking for you need to send samples to a lab for analysis to confirm if a material contains asbestos. And you don't get an instant reaction when exposed. When your mind is on other tasks on-site, it can be forgotten about. The consequences and health damage from asbestos can take years, and even decades, to appear.

room needing refurbishment

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. It's out of sight, and out of mind - until it's too late.

Through keeping knowledge refreshed, 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.

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.

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.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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