ASBESTOS AWARENESS course
This course also serves as a refresher course if you
already hold a certificate achieved elsewhere
About THIS course
mw fIRE TRAINING
Welcome ! Everything you need to gain a certificate of achievement is right here on this page. It will demonstrate that you have put in the time to learn a very real life risk that lurks in your workplace, every day, until disturbed or discovered.
The first thing to understand, therefore, is the significant difference between 'disturbed' and 'discovered', as these are the concepts that all asbestos training is focused on.
Picture yourself at work; you may learn about asbestos having been found onsite (i.e. discovered) or you accidentally come across a material that contains asbestos (i.e. disturbed) that you may have touched. Therefore asbestos training mostly concentrates on these two eventualities and aims to educate on what asbestos is and how to recognise it. After that, asbestos courses will advise you on what to do when you believe that you have come across asbestos or have disturbed it.
Legally, the Company needs to demonstrate that they are providing guidance and the employee or self-employed subcontractor is required to demonstrate that they are knowledgeable enough to be able to take the necessary precautions.
Who is the training for & why do I need it?
This training is for operatives who may come into contact with 'Asbestos Containing Materials' (ACMs) but who are neither Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Licensed Contractors, nor have been trained to work with asbestos containing materials.
Awareness training is intended to help workers avoid carrying out work that will disturb asbestos. This is evidenced with asbestos awareness training. There is no expiry date because there is no legal requirement to repeat the training, Saying that, some form of refresher is recommended by HSE guidelines. Usually this is interpreted as being every 24 months but in construction, where the risks are much greater, the stipulation is for refresher training to be undertaken every 12 months. That's how important asbestos awareness is, in the workplace!
Why should you bother?
Aside from the legal duty outlined above, thousands of commercial, industrial, residential, schools and public buildings built or refurbished before 2000 are likely to contain Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs). Workers could be exposed to asbestos fibres which can be released from ACMs such as paint, ceiling tiles, pipe insulation or lagging. Fire alarm installers are one of the groups that have been specifically identified by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) as being particularly at risk of being exposed to ACMs.
What do I do next? - (course outline)
1) The top half of this page contains all of the links to the files that you will need to complete this course. The bottom half of this page contains the same files in web format in case you have any problems with the download links. You can choose any way to work with the files
2) There are 5 main modules that need to be studied as well as other material that may be helpful or interesting. Module 3 is the Multiple Choice test, this is because the test is based on modules 1 and 2.
5) The 5 modules are:
- Asbestos Toolbox Talk
- Asbestos Slideshow
- Asbestos Awareness Multiple Choice test
- MW Fire Asbestos Policy
- MW Fire Asbestos Generic Risk Assessment
4) Do it in this order:
- Read the Toolbox Talk (module 1)
- Read the Slideshow (module 2)
- Read the Policy (module 4)
- Read the Risk Assessment (module 5)
- Read whatever else you can find on this page (articles, videos, links, etc.)
- Review everything
- Take the multiple choice test (module 3)
5) About the test
Clicking on the Module 3 link will take you to a new tab in your browser. Input your email address at the start, this is how you will be identified on the system. Answer all 30 questions. Click the submit button at the end. That's it.
If you have any questions about the course send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you score 80% or over your certificate will be sent to you. If you do not, we will go over the areas that you did not do so well at, until you are more familiar with it.
What you will need to do next
1. Toolbox talk
This is a thorough toolbox talk that would stand on its own merit as a good asbestos refresher course. It serves as the first document you need to read and understand, for a basic grounding in asbestos awareness
2. Slides Presentation
Module 2 is an extensive slideshow presentation that builds on the previous toolbox talk. This is the part of an asbestos course that gives more details about the types of asbestos you might find out there. That's right, the boring stuff!
A lot of thought went in to the presentation in order to get across the important things that you need to know, in the best order and the most direct route.
3. multiple choice
That's quite some reading you've got through by this stage!
This is as far as most asbestos awareness courses go and then you take the exam. When you are confident that you have looked through all the materials in this course then go ahead and take the test. It is an important module because you cannot gain an MWF Training certificate without achieving 80%.
4. Asbestos Policy
This document is the MW Fire Asbestos Policy. It's quite short, just two pages, but it's one of the most important. No other document commits the Company to keep reports of asbestos from its employees for ever.
This Policy is requested by clients of MW Fire before we are allowed to work in their premises and in it you will note the legal framework that applies to us all. We all share a responsibility to keep everyone safe and you should be acquainted with it if you are working for or on behalf of the Company.
5. Risk Assessment
This is a general risk assessment about asbestos related diseases. By now you know what those diseases are and the risk of developing them from asbestos exposure. It is a very short document, but as you have come to learn, the more serious the dangers, the less complicated the warning message needs to be.
What does asbestos mean?
The word asbestos means 'indestructible' and was given by the ancient Greeks because of the material's remarkable properties. If it wasn't so dangerous it would be one of the most useful materials on the planet for human existence.
The term asbestos refers to six different minerals that all have the same properties in the way their crystals grow. Essentially it is a type of rock and is found naturally.
The types of asbestos naturally forming crystal are called 'ASBESTIFORM' which means they grow in long thin flexible fibres.
There is no way to avoid inhaling asbestos fibres because they are found everywhere including some foods that we eat and in the air we breathe. The asbestos fibres are released naturally when the rock is being eroded.
Inhaling too many fibres over time can cause diseases like asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) and mesothelioma (a type of lung cancer). Every year we each breathe about a million fibres just from the natural erosion of asbestos-containing rocks. On the whole this is not detrimental to the vast majority of the world population.
Why did people start using asbestos?
Asbestos fibres are strong and their resistant to heat made these minerals incredibly useful in industry. The unknown problem was that inhaling asbestos fibres is very damaging to health because of their strength. To your lungs, these fibres are like tiny needles that get stuck in the mucus linings of the lungs and trigger defence responses from the body that actually cause more harm than good.
More than 4,500 years ago, Finnish pottery makers discovered a stone made of thin fibres that mixed really well with the clay they used to make pots. This peculiar stone was so strong and yet flexible that they could use it to make their pots thinner and bigger than ever before. But its main quality was that it was surprisingly resistant to heat.
The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all used asbestos in their pottery. Asbestos ceramic pottery has been discovered dated between 4,000 to 2,000 BCE.
Are all types of asbestos bad for you?
In a nutshell yes because it is the characteristic of their thin strong fibres that is dangerous to health, not because they are some sort of poison. Some types are more dangerous than others.
The forms of asbestos with the highest health risk are part of a group of rocks called amphiboles. What makes amphiboles cause more health issues than others comes down to four of their chemical and structural properties :
- amphibole fibres are smaller, so they travel deeper in to the lungs
- amphibole fibres are sharper, so they pierce the lungs more
- amphiboles are water avoiding which prevents them being dissolved in mucus
- amphiboles contain iron which can react with oxygen and damage the DNA of lung cells
The last property listed above is what causes cells to divide too quickly and therefore brings about cancer in the lungs.
When did people discover asbestos was dangerous?
The ancient Romans wrote about slaves getting a sickness of the lungs after working in asbestos mines. When the first commercial asbestos mines opened in Quebec in 1879, asbestos related health issues started showing up in medical journals soon after.
In the UK in 1924, Nellie Kershaw was one of the first well studied asbestos cases. She had been spinning asbestos in to yarn since she was 13 years old and died at the age of 33 from asbestosis.
Parliament asked a doctor Merewether to investigate the health of asbestos workers. He conducted a two year study of 374 workers at an asbestos textile factory. He found that inhaling asbestos fibres caused scarring in the lungs and 17 out of 20 workers who had been there for more than 20 years ended up with asbestosis. Merewether presented his paper to parliament in 1930 and thereafter asbestos factories were required to provide ventilation.
It wasn't until 2003 that asbestos was banned throughout the European Union. In America asbestos had been in widespread use during World War II, It was cheap and strong and resistant to fire and chemicals. US Naval warships for example were fitted throughout with asbestos insulation.
The production in the US did not slow down until 1979 when nine asbestos manufacturers sued the federal government to be reimbursed for having paid out $69,000 in 1975 to an asbestos worker who had developed asbestosis. The government proved that manufacturers had known about the dangers from asbestos and had been hiding the connection with asbestos related diseases for decades.
Five main modules
A course in five parts for overall completeness
There are several ways to access the material for this course, see the course outline above for this. The best way to do this course is on a computer at home, but it will work just as well on a tablet or mobile, it just wont look as cool.
If you encounter any problem with the links then simply scroll down and they can be found there. It's meant to be easy and not arduous, so if you're still having any difficulty then reach out with an email.
it could not be simpler
Go for it!
Start anytime. All documents are available from here; the 5 modules, plus some additional relevant material. What happens when you click on these links depends on your browser. Reminder: any problem just scroll down and find your document presented in web format.
A workplace example: The 'Asbestos Notice' from the link above is an example of the sort of paperwork that can be obtained from the Principal Contractor if you ask to see it. In this case, asbestos was discovered by accident in a corridor wall by MW Fire operatives and reported. The area was sheeted off for a whole year while asbestos removal specialists treated the ACMs.
The Principal Contractor then asked contractors for normal works to resume. The MW Fire management team requested evidence that it was safe to do so, asking for what is known as a certificate of re-occupation. The Principal Contractor provided an adequate assurance that they had implemented a plan for the removal of asbestos. The certificate of re-occupation was provided a little later on when they received it. MW Fire operatives therefore returned to work, safely.
How many other trades had expressed the same concern do you think? We think MW Fire were the only contractor that asked for a safety assurance before re-commencing work, under great pressure to return to work we might add.
A short clip, but can you spot the slight inaccuracy in it?
Asbestos Awareness Course
The podcast says that over 3,000 deaths occur yearly from asbestos related diseases, which was correct when this podcast was recorded a few years ago. But the number is closer to 5,000 now - Did you spot it?
Pause for a moment - Isn't it just staggering to think about that number of deaths continuing to grow each year. That's currently around 96 people every week or 14 people each day, in the UK alone. And the number is expected to grow each year for some time yet.
Why do we not hear about this tragedy on the news every day. It is killing more people than the coronavirus pandemic of 2019 ever did. Perhaps the reason is because it is 'old news' very old news indeed. The unfortunate people are paying the price for their exposure decades ago when little was known about the dangers of asbestos.
There's more to it than you might think
More boring stuff - (except the last paragraph!)
Organisations must not work with asbestos unless they have received specific training and where relevant, be Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Licensed Contractors. In the case of work on a construction site, this responsibility is taken by the Principal Contractor under the CDM regulations and they will have had the site surveyed and an asbestos plan put in place that outlines the procedures for dealing with suspected asbestos and its removal.
The subcontractor implements suitable control procedures to assess the work area and to minimise disturbing of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) if asbestos is suspected. This is done in the first instance with operatives having done asbestos awareness training and thereafter taking refresher training at regular intervals. This is the level of importance given to dealing with asbestos, even decades after its widespread use in construction was banned.
Everyone shares responsibility to ensure that workers who may potentially come into contact with ACMs have received asbestos awareness training before commencing work so that they are aware of possible ACMs in the workplace and know the steps to take to enquire about it or deal with the situation. The aim is always to limit exposure and prevent the spread of fibres.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012 came into force on 6th April 2012, updating previous asbestos regulations. The use of all ACMs was not fully banned until 1999. This means any building built or refurbished before the year 2000 could possibly contain asbestos.
Therefore, under Regulation 10 of CAR 2012 every employer must ensure that adequate information, instruction and training is given to those employees who are liable to be exposed to asbestos during the course of their work. It must also ensure than any subcontractors it uses have the necessary training in place.
The training needs to be appropriate for the work and the roles undertaken by individuals. There are three types of asbestos training listed below, steps 2 and 3 are for specialists working with asbestos. Option 1 applies to the rest of us working on construction sites and other premises, industrial, commercial and residential.
- Awareness training
- Training for work with asbestos that does not require a licence from HSE
- Training for asbestos work that does require a licence from HSE.
ACoP L143 Second Edition Regulation 4 states the Duty Holder for your workplace is:
"... the person or organisation that has the main responsibility for maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises ..."
What dutyholders must do to comply with the law is to take reasonable steps to find materials in premises likely to contain asbestos and to check their condition. This part is very important to remember: Materials are presumed to contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not. A written record of the location and condition of asbestos or presumed asbestos is made and this record must be kept up to date. they dutyholder's legal responsibilities cannot be delegated.
Anyone who is not a dutyholder, but has information on or control of the premises, must help the dutyholder, as far as necessary, to comply with the duty. This means an individual has a duty to co-operate which effectively means abiding by any site training and keeping their own training up to date and to report any information they come across relating to asbestos whether they think it is important or not.
- In the event that you unexpectedly come across ACMs, or when you believe a substance to be asbestos, you must stop work immediately. Secure the area as much as possible and report it immediately to supervisory staff.
- Do not continue to work near the suspected area of possible asbestos contamination.
- Report to supervisory staff if you have disturbed ACMs and been exposed.
- Follow all information, instruction and training given to prevent injury or ill health.
CAR Regulation 5
Identification of the presence of asbestos
This regulation requires employers to identify the presence of asbestos and its type and condition before any building, maintenance, demolition or other work, liable to disturb asbestos, begins. It also sets out the requirement to arrange a survey if existing information on the presence of asbestos in the premises is incomplete or appears unreliable.
The Basic Principles of Asbestos Management: -
- Asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed
- If asbestos is safely managed and contained, it should not present a health hazard.
- Do not remove asbestos unnecessarily as removing it can be more dangerous than leaving it in place and managing it.
- Not all asbestos materials present the same risk, e.g. spray lagging contains approx. 85% asbestos whereas asbestos cement roofing will only contain 13% asbestos.
- If it is uncertain whether materials contain asbestos, presume they do and treat them as such.
- Remember that the duty to manage is to assure there are in place practical steps to protect maintenance workers and other persons from the risk of exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos when encapsulated is safe however once an ACM starts to deteriorate, then the asbestos fibres can be released in to the environment. In the event of fibres being released by drilling, sanding, cutting they can be ingested or inhaled.
Workers engaging in installation, remedials and maintenance work could be exposed to asbestos fibres released from wall paint, ceiling tiles, pipe insulation or lagging. Fibres can be released by drilling, sanding, cutting etc. Asbestos is often mixed with other materials, so it is hard to know if you are working with it or not and therefore the benefit of asbestos awareness training gives you a better chance of being able to identify it.
Workers are not permitted to work with asbestos unless they have received the appropriate training. There is a legal requirement for those who may potentially disturb asbestos, but not actually work professionally with ACMs, to undergo an asbestos awareness training course.
Contractors should prepare risk assessments and safe systems of work where asbestos is suspected or could be present, so that it is not needlessly disturbed. If workers discover or disturb asbestos they need to know what to do about it.
Far too common on construction sites are supervisory staff there because they have acquired certificates, they are fire marshals, first aiders, have PASMA and asbestos awareness training, etc., and yet, even though they are also the proud bearers of an IOSH or SSSTS, they have never produced a Risk Assessment or Safe System of Work or even discussed the hazards of asbestos or silica dust with a toolbox talk. Don't be one of them, you must protect yourself and others around you by your actions. Be the professional your pay grade demands.
Animation about asbestos related diseases