Asbestos Awareness: How to ensure you’re prepared

Online Training By Rhiannon Davies

Most people are aware that asbestos is a dangerous substance, but may not be aware of how to recognise when asbestos is present, or how to protect themselves from it.  Some workers may also not be aware of the fact that their employer is legally obligated to protect them when taking part in any work where there’s a possibility that they could be exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos Is An Avoidable Risk

Asbestos can be found in any type of building, but especially those that were built over 30 years ago, before the dangers of the substance were fully known and the use of it banned. It is a mineral fibre that was commonly used as an insulating and fire-resisting material. When disturbed, fibres become airborne and can enter the lungs causing a number of serious and often fatal diseases.

Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lungs that usually occurs after high levels of exposure to asbestos fibres. This scarring leads to the lungs losing their elasticity and can result in breathlessness. In severe cases, this is can be fatal. It is especially dangerous as it often takes over ten years to develop, meaning there are no initial symptoms to warn the worker that they have ingested asbestos fibres.

Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs and can be causes by even low levels of exposure to asbestos fibres if exposure is repeated over time. It can take as long as twenty to fifty years after exposure to develop symptoms. By this time it is usually fatal, and is incurable no matter what stage it is diagnosed at.

The right level of information, instruction, and training is crucial to preventing harm and protecting workers from these serious illnesses. A step as small as completing a short training course could become the difference between life and death for workers.

Asbestos Awareness Training

Asbestos awareness training is designed to help workers avoid work that could disturb asbestos present. It’s important to note that the removal of asbestos requires a much higher level of instruction on top of asbestos awareness training, and should never be attempted by workers who have not received specialised training. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that a training course alone isn’t enough to ensure workers are competent in working safely, but it’s a crucial first step – the skills learned during a training course should then be implemented on site and assessed regularly.

Receiving the right level of training to protect yourself and your colleagues doesn’t always mean having to take time away from paid work to travel to a classroom course. The UK Asbestos Training Association, otherwise known as UKATA, endorses an e-learning course by ACT that enables you to learn everything you need to know in the comfort of your own home, and at your own pace.

The course typically involves around 2-3 hours of study, which can be done in a flexible way that suits your own schedule. It’s assessed by a multiple choice exam that you are given 40 minutes to complete.

What Will You Learn?

Asbestos Awareness training covers the following topics needed to be able to recognise and avoid asbestos:

  • Types, nature, and properties of asbestos
  • Risks of asbestos and effects on health, including the effects of smoking
  • Use and locations of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs)
  • Legislation affecting asbestos
  • Avoiding and reducing risks

Who Can Benefit From Asbestos Awareness?

Our Asbestos Awareness course is recommended for anyone that undertakes maintenance, refurbishment, or building work, even if they are working on modern builds. This list includes but isn’t limited to:

  • General maintenance staff
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Gas fitters
  • Painters and decorators
  • Joiners
  • Plasterers
  • Demolition workers
  • Construction workers
  • Roofers
  • Heating and ventilation engineers
  • Telecommunication engineers
  • Burglar/fire alarm installers
  • Architects
  • Building surveyors and other such professionals

Ultimately this course is a useful tool for anybody who works in the construction industry or is responsible for the management and upkeep of buildings, not only those are required by law to undergo training.

Duty Of Care For Employers

Every kind of employer has a basic duty of care towards their workers, to monitor their health, safety, and wellbeing. Protection from asbestos forms a vital part of this duty of care where there is even the slightest chance it could become a hazard. There are over 5,000 deaths a year from asbestos-related illnesses, despite the fact that asbestos was banned for use in buildings almost 35 years ago. This is because certain illnesses like lung cancer can take years to develop after the initial exposure, so it may not always be apparent right away that a worker has been exposed – it’s for this reason that asbestos awareness training is considered crucial by the HSE, although there is no legal requirement.

The HSE also recommends that employers organise asbestos awareness refresher courses annually – the HSE also recommends the use of online training from a reputable organisation. ACT’s Asbestos Awareness e-learning course is compliant with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and is approved by the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA).

If employers are planning work in which they know for certain that asbestos will be disturbed, they are legally required to either hire properly licensed contractors if the work is deemed as high risk (for example, work on asbestos millboard, cleaning up debris that contains ACM dust, or removing sprayed coatings, also known as limpet asbestos) or to provide further training to their employees. To participate in this specialised training, workers must still have taken part in asbestos awareness training before they progress.

To find out more about accessing our Asbestos Awareness E-Learning course, visit our UKATA page our contact our sales team on

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