Figures from the HSA annual reports indicate that there may be about four cases a year in Ireland. The UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is on record as stating that “an estimated 3,000 deaths are occurring each year as a result of past exposure” to asbestos.
Measures to be taken by employers to protect workers from exposure to asbestos
Where there is asbestos present or suspected to be present, employers are required to:
- identify the presence/suspicion of asbestos;
- check the condition of the material;
- assess the likelihood of asbestos being disturbed by current/potential work;
- if in a bad condition, seek to get the asbestos removed using specialist contractors;
- assess the risk of workers being exposed to same;
- identify the type of asbestos involved;
- put in place measures to prevent exposure. If it is not possible to prevent exposure, to minimise it by reducing exposure to the lowest practicable level and at the very least below the exposure limit values;
- erect signage to notify users of the presence of asbestos;
- provide relevant training and information to employee about asbestos
Where asbestos is found in a workplace and it is necessary to disturb or remove it employers must:
- introduce of formal management systems to control work which has the potential to disturb asbestos;
- notify the HSA prior to carrying out any work that would be liable to expose or expose an employee to asbestos dust;
- prepare a plan of work for removal;
- ensure persons involved in asbestos removal have provided evidence of ability to carry out the work;
- dispose of asbestos waste in a safe manner and ensure the clear up of asbestos dust is carried out using a dustless method;
- remove asbestos dust from the air as near as possible to the point where it enters the workplaces involved;
- provide a health assessment for employees who may be exposed to asbestos
Where an employer discovers material on their premises that they suspect may be asbestos they must assume it is until identified otherwise.
Medical records of employee health assessments relating to asbestos exposure must be kept by the relevant medical practitioner for 40 years after the last assessment is recorded.
Exposure limit values
All forms of asbestos are now deemed equally harmful and this is reflected in the single exposure limit value (0.1 fibres per m3) assigned to the substance under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations, 2006.