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Raising awareness of the asbestos issue

26 June 2014

Facilities management and cleaning services bring operatives into close contact with the fabric of the buildings they are working in – so managing a number of risks is essential.

The threat to human health posed by asbestos is something the majority of us are aware of, and it is an issue that I highlighted in a recent presentation to members of the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals (AHCP).

I chose this particular subject because figures show that major NHS building programmes during the 1960s onwards coincided with huge importation and usage of asbestos in the UK. Asbestos could be present in any building that was built or refurbished before the year 2000 – healthcare-related or not – so this is a concern that affects a whole host of locations and industries. Asbestos is the cause of a number of conditions, the most severe being mesothelioma, which is typically caused by asbestos exposure alone, and relatively minor exposure at that.

Places where you might typically find asbestos in a building include:

  • Around toilet cisterns
  • In kitchens – around boiler seals or floor tiles
  • Around window seals

Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 covers the identification of the presence of asbestos. It states that an employer must not undertake work in demolition, maintenance, or any other work if it’s assumed that asbestos is present. A detailed survey and risk assessment should always be undertaken, and more information on this is available from www.tica-acad.co.uk 

Annual refresher training to keep the issue of asbestos front of mind is highly recommended, as it poses such a threat to human health. As FM and cleaning services continue to work closer together, with elements of waste management also playing an increasing role, the risk of asbestos exposure remains a distinct possibility.


Calls are increasing for proper vocational qualifications to prove competence regarding the identification, assessment and management of asbestos – something that WAMITAB wholeheartedly supports.

Written by WAMITAB CEO Chris James