According to a recent BBC article (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-45561384), approximately 9 out of 10 NHS trusts say they have hospitals containing asbestos.
Alec Smith, Director, Artisan Environmental cited:
“Asbestos is still present in around 70% of pre-year 2000 commercial stock, so the statistic of 9 out of 10 trusts with asbestos in buildings is hardly surprising. If anything, I am surprised that it is not 10 out of 10 trusts, assuming each trust has multiple buildings and it is unlikely that all of these buildings are built post 2000, or that for the older buildings they have removed all asbestos from the building.
So, if that is the case, does this mean that 90% of trusts are at least going some way to managing ACMs, and 10% are oblivious to the presence of ACMs in buildings and still have a lot to do to bring things up to date and manage asbestos safely?
In our experience some trusts do very well to manage asbestos properly. Overall, there is still a huge lack of understanding out there with how to manage asbestos correctly in commercial and public buildings, not just for NHS buildings but in general across the board.
How to deal with each material and prioritise management and works is often a tough decision. Ultimately, leaving certain asbestos materials in place and managing it correctly and effectively is often safer and more pragmatic than getting it removed. That is as long as the people who manage the building understands the legislation and the guidance documents, and follow a strict procedure to identify and monitor asbestos materials correctly on an ongoing basis.
The legislation specifies that asbestos registers should be made available to all building staff, contractors, tenants or visitors. The whole point of an asbestos survey and register is to make sure that all people who occupy, visit or work on a building are made aware of the presence of all asbestos materials, in order to keep everyone safe and avoid accidental exposure. All too often a report is seen as a box ticking exercise and shoved in a filing cabinet never to be seen again.
Something everyone can do to help push for improved awareness is to ask to see a copy of the asbestos register for any commercial or public buildings they work in or visit. For example, you may want to check the Asbestos Register at your place of work, a hospital you or a relative are being treated in, your children’s school and so on. If the register contains asbestos materials, then it should also show the risk level and confirm whether each is safe to manage in place, or needs remedial works to make them safe. If you are unsure then ask to see more information on the full survey report and Material Risk Assessment and discuss this with building management until you are satisfied that everything is being done properly.
The story of Mags Portman is a very sad one, and unfortunately a story that is way more common than people realise. Many people mistakenly think that most asbestos materials have been removed from buildings, but this certainly isn’t the case. While generally the safe management of asbestos has improved over the years, with increased knowledge, awareness and compliance, there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately, many trades and workers within buildings that contain asbestos are still exposed every day in the UK and around the world.
It will be interesting to see a follow up report on this article to find out whether the BBC obtained information on asbestos records for each site, and if so, what their interpretation will be of this data. Let’s hope that by raising this and other issues of asbestos management it all helps to keep improving things and keep people safe.”