The only sure way to tell is to have a sample of the material examined by an expert analyst. However, in practise if the material is old, dense, thin and cement coloured it probably does contain asbestos - usually about 10%.
Yes. Health and safety legislation only applies to people at work - not to private DIY activities at your own home. It is still important to take basic safety precautions to protect yourself and your neighbours. See next question for precautions.
Asbestos cement is relatively safe provided it is handled with care. Avoid breaking sheets if possible and do not use power tools, such as drills, saws or sanders under any circumstances. If you cannot undo a fixing and a sheet must be broken then to minimise fibre release ensure the sheet is wet - as this is likely to cause dust particles to stick to the surface rather than float in your breathing zone. An ordinary dust mask is unlikely to provide respiratory protection against the tiny particles that can cause lung damage - better to avoid releasing dust by working carefully.
If you are able to transport the material then small quantities may be taken (by domestic residents of Stafford Borough) to the Council's waste collection site at St Albans Road, Stafford. Small quantities = 3 or 4 roof sheets, or equivalent. If possible large sheets should be wrapped in strong plastic sheeting. Small pieces should be placed in a sealed plastic bag, which should then be placed in another plastic bag and sealed - ie double bagged.
Larger quantities of asbestos cement will not be accepted at the above site and should be taken to an asbestos-licensed site - contact Staffordshire County Council Waste Disposal on tel. 0300 111 8000 for your nearest location, or contact an asbestos removal contractor (see 'Yellow Pages') who may be able to dismantle your building and/or take away asbestos cement products.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012) require persons/companies in control of workplaces to manage asbestos in buildings. A practical effort should be made to identify the presence, nature and conditions of any asbestos present. Where asbestos is in poor condition it is probably best to have it removed - a licensed asbestos removal contractor will probably be required. Where asbestos containing materials are in sound condition and doing a useful job (ie fire protection) it is probably best left in situ - but information on the location and type of asbestos must be recorded. This information will be required to ensure a system of routine checking on the condition of the asbestos is carried out and most importantly that nobody carries out any unauthorised work on asbestos-containing materials.
The CAR 2012 can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.
Information on the management of asbestos in retail premises can be found on the British Retail Consortium website.
Employers are supposed to provide a comfortable temperature at work. For the majority of normal workplaces 16.0C is regarded as a minimum, though employers should have regard for comfort issues such as draughts/ventilation; humidity etc. For workplaces where very physical work is undertaken a lower minimum of 13.0C is accepted in law. There are numerous exceptions where it would be impractical to maintain such temperatures (ie cold-stores) where employers must assess how best to provide for the comfort of their staff.
No actual upper limit is set - though employers are expected to take all practical steps to try to provide comfort conditions for their employees. For further information see HSE.gov.uk.
As far as possible your employer should control workplace hazards at source - ie guarding dangerous machinery. If hazards are still present then the employer should risk assess those hazards and if the assessment shows that personal protective equipment (PPE) will protect staff then the employer should provide such PPE free of charge to his staff. The employer must also train employees on the correct use of PPE and ensure it is properly maintained and stored.
Research by the HSE indicates that working with a computer screen will not damage your eyes. However, it can show up deficiencies already present in your vision. It is for this reason that employees who are required to spend significant periods working with computer screens are entitled to an eyesight test periodically - at their employer's expense. To avoid eye strain people should take regular breaks from their computer screen (5 minutes per hour is recommended, and never work for longer than 2 hours without a break).
The law now requires that all computer workstations should be assessed by the employer. The assessments should be carried out by someone who has been trained.
The issues to be covered include an ergonomic assessment of the workstation, the relative height of the chair - desk - screen; spacing of keyboard and screen; lighting, glare and reflections; arm or wrist resting provision and adjustability to suit different individuals. Getting the workstation right will eliminate most of the strains an employee might otherwise suffer.
All hazardous substances must be labelled to warn the user. The standard warning is a black cross on an orange or yellow background, below which a word showing the grade of hazard is given - 'Irritant; Corrosive; Harmful; Toxic or Very Toxic'. A similar style of warning is often used to warn if a product is highly flammable. These warnings are very important and are why hazardous materials should never be decanted into unlabelled containers.
Employers are required to use the least hazardous products in their workplace. In some instances there may be no alternative but to use a hazardous substance. If this is the case then the employer must properly assess the risks and ensure that practical control measures are put in place. Employees must be given adequate information about the hazards and controls and properly trained to ensure their safety and that of their colleagues. Employees must then comply with their employer's safety controls.
Yes. The employer must make an assessment of their likely first aid requirements and then ensure the kit is regularly checked and topped up. This could include a small kit for the vehicle of travelling employees.
The employer is required to make an assessment of the likely risks present in the work carried out and where there is a significant risk of injury then an appropriate number of suitably trained first aiders should be provided. In many lower risk work environments a trained first aider may not be required, in which case a 'nominated person' should be appointed. This should be someone who is normally present on site, ideally of a calm disposition who is authorised to summon any necessary assistance in the event of an accident - they do not need to be trained in first aid.
Firstly, employers must keep a record of all work-related accidents on their premises, or affecting their employees. Secondly, certain accidents are statutorily reportable - see next question.
All work-related accidents involving the following:-
Please direct all reports to the national Incident Contact Centre.
No. However, employers are required to consider each employee's capability (there will be differences varying with sex, age, size, build, disability etc.) and should try to avoid any potentially hazardous manual handling wherever possible. If hazardous manual handling cannot be avoided then the employer should carry out an appropriate risk assessment to ensure practical controls are put in place that reduce the likelihood of anyone getting injured.
Yes. The law puts an upper limit on any individual (very loud) noises plus limits on the average noise to which employees are exposed throughout their working day. If you have difficulty talking to someone within about 1 metre distance then, if that is the normal noise level in that location, the employer needs to have some noise assessments done. Where necessary, noise should be reduced at source and only as a last resort should staff be required to use hearing protection.
The legal controls on noise are in the process of being reviewed - with lower noise limits being introduced.
Below are the most significant causes of accidents in the workplace.