Councils still not providing adequate RPE to staff handling asbestos

Concerns expressed about lack of asbestos equipment for Aberdeen council staff 

Unions and councillors have raised fears that Aberdeen council workers are still not yet benefitting from equipment to shield them from the risk of asbestos exposure, despite this being required by almost three-decade-old legislation.

Where does the law stand? 

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 require that employers supply suitable equipment to anyone whose health could be endangered by the lethal substance.

However, a report to a recent city council staff governance committee revealed that some employees do not have access to respiratory protective equipment (RPE), despite the last 18 months having seen a number of high-profile asbestos incidents in the locality.

Last summer, for instance, workers encountered the potentially fatal fibres at Bridge of Don Academy, and it took five days for an emergency response to be ordered.

Subsequent incidents, in November at Beachview Court and during the demolition of Kincorth Academy in August, indicate the very real potential dangers to Aberdeen council workers lacking access to such vital equipment.

The report stated that the local authority hoped to meet its goal of providing all of its employees with RPE access by the end of this year.

“Not getting on top of the situation” 

SNP councillor David Cameron said: “We are now 14 months on from Bridge of Don and we have had other incidents at Beachview and Kincorth.

“We are obviously not getting on top of the situation as much as we would like.”

Meanwhile, Liam Knox of the Unite union agreed that there was a “risk” to council workers as a result of the continuing lack of equipment. He urged the committee to closely monitor the situation.

He added: “We have seen various incidents lately and it is something that needs to be kept a close eye on.”

However, the committee was also told that there was a need for detailed asbestos surveys prior to work being undertaken by either the council or external contractors.

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