Asbestos Risk Assessments – what they are, what they’re for, and what all employers need to know

If you are an employer and are planning any work that has the potential to disturb asbestos, then you are responsible for preparing a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

Your first responsibility is to the individual(s) you are asking to undertake the risk assessment in the first place. The HSE guidance states that whoever carries out the risk assessment must:

  • be competent and qualified to do the risk assessment (see below – or take the pain away and get in touch with us here)
  • carry it out before any work begins, and ensure there’s enough time to put appropriate precautions in place
  • make sure the assessment is specific to the job and tailored to all aspects of the proposed work

What are risk assessments about?
The clue is in the title!  Fundamentally they are about identifying and controlling risks.  These risks however are not only limited to the inherent dangers of the substance itself, they also cover wider, more general health and safety risks, for example working at height, fall prevention etc – and identifying which people may be affected from the various types of risk.

Once these are established, the next step is to identigy the actions needed to ideally remove or at the very least reduce that risk. The findings of the risk assessment must then be formally recorded, along with the actions required, and your employees need to be informed of these.

Last but not least, the required actions have to be implemented, and going forwards the risk assessment needs to be reviewed and updated as and when required.

What does competency mean?
Whoever carries out the risk assessment must have a sufficient level of knowledge, training and expertise. This is to make sure that they understand the risks from asbestos (and general risks) to enable them to make informed decisions about the risks and identify the appropriate action required to reduce them.  They will also need to be able to estimate the expected level of exposure to help them decide whether or not the control limit is likely to be exceeded.

What are the contents of the risk assessment?
The HSE advises that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment must include full details of the work to be undertaken and how long the work is expected to take. Specifically it should also include:

  • details of the type and quantity of the asbestos
  • details of the expected level of exposure
  • details of the controls to be used to reduce exposure eg use of local exhaust ventilation, controlled wetting, adequate PPE / RPE use of enclosures
  • decontamination procedures for tools, equipment and PPE
  • details on how asbestos waste will be managed
  • emergency procedures

The findings of the assessment should be communicated to employees, and anybody else who could be affected.  Crucially, a copy of the risk assessment must be available on site.

Got any questions or need support with your Risk Assessment?
Contact the experts today, we’d be delighted to help.

Further information
The HSE has produced a task manual for building, maintenance and related trades on how to safely carry out non-licensed work involving asbestos. It’s called Asbestos Essentials and the information sheets can be found here. These sheets can be used to form an important part of the risk assessment if they match the work you are doing.