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Probing the subtleties of the new Analysts’ Guide

Written by Nick Garland on 15/07/2021
 

As you’ll almost definitely know by now, in April the Health and Safety Executive finally released its new Analysts’ Guide. I say finally, because as you’ll also know, the update was previously in the works for more than five years.

It’s been a very long road. The original consultation document was optimistically called ‘Asbestos: The Analysts’ Guide 2016 HSG248’. Like many others, I originally sent in my return to the consultation in November 2015. In 2017 I drafted my white paper, which summarised, analysed and commented on it. At the time, I anticipated that I’d be updating that promptly, but the real thing didn’t appear for more than another three years.

Despite this long gestation, the guide still has a few niggles – not least of which are a number of typos, some of which need clarification. I won’t be concentrating on these here, but I do think it’s likely the HSE will be targeting them in a minor revision before too long.

The big changes – and a typo

I’m not intending to focus on the big changes, in part because the majority of them were telegraphed in the original draft doc and then subsequently ‘leaked’ – we’ve had a long time to talk about them. The biggest example of this is the Supervisor Handover Form, which has been in wide but not universal circulation for a while.

However, now that it is in the guidance, for all practical purposes it becomes mandatory for the supervisor to hand one of these, fully completed, to the analyst before they can start on the four-stage clearance (4SC). This will also be something that the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) will be checking when they do their visits to the labs. Assure360 was an immediate adopter of this, so if you’re already using the Assure360 Paperless app you don’t need to do anything.

Discover how Assure360 Paperless helps keep you within the guidelines.

If, however, you haven’t started using the now ‘mandatory’ form, be aware that the template on page 202 of the guide contains a typo. The form asks ‘Has the NPU been switched off and new pre-filter inserted?’ Of course, we all know that this is done by the analyst after they are satisfied that stage two has been passed and they are ready to start the air test.

The asbestos enclosure handover form widely shared by ACAD had this typo rectified – you could contact your trade organisation to get their corrected version. If you do use the one from the guide, be sure to brief your teams on the correct way to use it.

Getting into the subtleties

As I say, I don’t want to focus on the typos, but rather I want to pick up some of the less obvious changes that people might have missed.

Throughout, the Analysts’ Guide stresses the client’s responsibilities with regard to protecting the health of people who work in or on their building. The underlying subtext is that this includes the analyst and the asbestos removal operative. Clients also have fairly extensive duties under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) to ensure that a project can be carried out without risk – so far as is reasonably practical. The combination of these factors could be that the client’s duties extend to cover previously grey areas.

It seems curious that the HSE is effectively extending the well known position that the client and not the licensed asbestos removal contractor (LARC) should appoint the analyst. The reason for this is that the analyst’s four-stage clearance is the final quality control audit prior to handing back for normal occupation, and any conflict of interest at this point is bad.

So far so normal, but the change comes with the highlighting of less formal conflicts in paragraphs 1.23 and 1.24:

“…where the contractor is a major source of work…” and;

“The analyst should not perform site clearance certification where such shared links exist. However, if shared links are unavoidable, the building client should be made fully aware of them. This should be in writing.”  

Any such links would therefore generate a UKAS-verifiable paper trail. It will be interesting to see what kind of an impact this will have on the industry.

Regardless, the inevitable conclusion that strikes me is that if personal monitoring is mandatory (it is), and the HSE is giving out a very strong steer that the client should appoint the analyst directly, then the client-appointed analyst should be conducting the LARC’s personal monitoring. It would then be inevitable that if they do, it will form part of the health records of that individual, and must be shared immediately with their employer (the LARC).

This might not seem controversial to those of you removed from the coal face, but the reality is that in many cases client-appointed analysts are refusing to share this crucial data with the LARC on the grounds that ‘the client has paid for it – so we can’t hand it over.’ It is my understanding that the HSE’s position on this will be made crystal clear in upcoming guidance on personal monitoring.

Personal monitoring, again

The most significant of the subtle changes in the new analysts’ guide centres around personal monitoring. I first wrote about these based on the final draft version of the guide. In short, a new type of personal sample has been added: the Specific Short Duration Activity (SSDA) test.

It’s this test that most contractors have tried to use in recent years as it has the most immediate, practical effect – i.e. they use it to test the effectiveness of their methods and make changes as appropriate. The problem has been that as it wasn’t listed in the guidance, analysts were tending to only do the 10-minute version, which is useless in all but a few cases.

Now the HSE has given the optimal test a name, LARCs should immediately adopt the terminology, and request ‘SSDA Personals’ whenever they book personal monitoring tests.

There are dark arts involved in the calculation of four-hour time-weighted average (4hr TWA), and LARCs can take another step that will increase the utility of any personal monitoring air testing. Where possible the go-to or standard test should be at least two hours long, and run at a sample rate of two litres per minute. The full 200 fields/graticules should be counted, too. This single test will then qualify for calculating a SSDA, RPE suitability, and the 4hr TWA. Of course, there may be more complex situations, as I explained in my recent deeper dive on the 4hr TWA.

Finally, those of you who have read my earlier posts may remember I pointed out a typo in the late draft of the guide. It specified a four-litre per minute minimum flow rate for the SSDA tests, but this has been corrected in the final version to specify up to four litres.

Want to simplify exposure monitoring? Book a demo today, and see how Assure360 automates the 4hr TWA.

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