The conference season got off to a cracking start last month with the Contamination Expo at Birmingham’s NEC. As we’ve come to expect, more than 3,000 delegates were spoiled by a large range of exhibitors, and a comprehensive programme of talks by the industry’s thinkers, movers and shakers.
I’m pleased to have played my own small part with my talk on the new licence assessment regime, and the challenges faced by LARCs and the HSE alike as everyone struggles to get to grips with the new evidence-based system. Applying for a licence is more time-consuming and complicated than ever, with more of the burden shifted onto applicants. In my talk, I discussed the causes, consequences, and why electronic record-keeping systems like Assure360 can reduce the risk of catastrophic delays in renewing your licence.
There were several other highlights for me, including Assure360 being named runner up in the asbestos category of the Contamination Expo Series Awards. Another was getting our developers together with some clients, in a session which produced some great ideas for the future development of the Assure360 suite. In particular, we’re now focusing on how to analyse the data we’re already collecting to give companies deeper insights into planning and costing jobs. Assure360 will allow management to analyse time spent on preparation and sheeting up – so that productivity strategies can be designed.
Looking forward to the EAF conference
The next stop will be the European Asbestos Forum conference, which this year returns to its roots in Amsterdam. Yvonne Waterman has put together an amazing event on the 14th and 15th of November, with the theme Asbestos & Innovation.
The format will be familiar to those of us that have been before:
- Day one (14 November) comprises round-table workshops where delegates can meet the speakers, exchange views, and really benefit from a wealth of expertise
- Day two (15 November) is the full conference, followed by dinner
I’m honoured to be chairing one of the sessions on the second day.
For those of us concerned with asbestos and the threat it poses, this is an unmissable event: the conference features some of the world’s most eminent experts on asbestos and its impacts on human health. In the morning session of the second day, standout speakers include Sean Fitzpatrick, who has been the leading voice in the research surrounding asbestos in talcum powder in the USA. His talk has the disconcertingly simple title of ‘What is asbestos?’ – I’m sure the answers will surprise us all.
After the morning break we’ll hear from Professor Arthur Frank, who has been researching and writing on occupational health, toxicology and asbestos for decades. One of the world’s leading experts on the subject, he’ll be presenting a detailed examination of the link between chance exposure and the development of an asbestos-related disease.
That will lead us to the keynote speaker, the eminent professor Jukka Takala, president of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH). Professor Takala’s talk will focus on the research paper he published last year, Global Asbestos Disaster.
Without giving too much away, the paper collected the latest evidence of the magnitude of asbestos-related diseases around the world and in particular in the developed Western world. It contains shocking statistics: 255,000 deaths annually worldwide, and direct costs for sickness, early retirement and death estimated at an eye-watering $1.14 trillion (0.7% of GDP) for Western European countries and the European Union alone.
The conference will explore two critical areas of technology in depth – denaturation of asbestos waste, and forensic methods to prevent asbestos fly-tipping. The first area addresses how we make asbestos safe, rather than perpetuating the legacy problem of simply burying it. Several speakers will discuss different methods of denaturation and how, as the technology improves, it is becoming increasingly economically viable.
At the other end, there’s discussion of an intriguing method of using the ‘traceable liquid’ SmartWater to mark asbestos, just as some property managers do with valuables. Tagging asbestos-containing materials with a unique chemical identifier might enable much more rigorous tracking of ACMs, and help establish exactly where dumped material came from.
Another example of why EAF is different is the exhibition – Tony Rich (or Asbostorama to give you his Flickr name), is an astonishing photography artist whose muse is asbestos. Tony is a friend of the show and you will be able to see some of his work at the conference.
These are just some of the highlights from the programme, and with 22 internationally regarded speakers, the biggest problem will be in deciding which of the fascinating talks to attend! EAF is always warmly welcoming and fascinating: the lessons we can learn from our international colleagues on how they tackle this global problem are invaluable.
All in all, this will be a conference with global standing, in a new and spacious setting, just a short hop from the UK. I can’t wait to see you there.
The EAF conference takes place at the Van der Valk Oostzaan Hotel, 20 minutes from Amsterdam Schiphol airport, on 14-15 November. Discover the programme in full, or click here to register.
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