Assure 360

While we eagerly await the start of the European Asbestos Forum conference, next week in Amsterdam, the second annual conference of the Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM) will follow hot on its heels. The FAAM conference takes place on the 19-20 November at the Crowne Plaza in Nottingham.

After the success of last year’s debut, there’s every sign that FAAM has created another unmissable conference for 2019.Both EAF and FAAM seem closely aligned with speakers in Nottingham including European Asbestos Forum founder Yvonne Waterman, and another of the speakers from the EAF, Charles Pickles, tackling the conflict between safety and commercialism when it comes to asbestos.

While conferences organised by the British Occupational Hygiene Society, FAAM’s parent organisation, normally take a UK-centric view, FAAM 2019 looks to have a very global feel – joining Yvonne and Charles are speakers from Canada, America and Australia.

So, what am I most looking forward to? Day one features a talk on an issue with the potential to grow into a major health scandal: asbestos in talc. Jacob Persky will explore whether the recent headlines reflect evolving perspectives, or a paradigm shift.

One of the first unmissable talks will come from Gary Burdett of the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), on dust sampling. This is a vexed issue, with such tests widely considered discredited in all but the most niche applications. The problem is that sampling is too sensitive, offering only a yes/no indication of whether asbestos is present, rather than an indication of the actual risk. Gary is a world expert on the subject and will hopefully be able to shed some light on the when and where this technique should be used – and if there are any improvements on the way.

On the afternoon of the first day there’ll be workshops on developing best practice in surveys and clearances, led by Colette and Alan Willoughby of the National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants (NORAC). This has got to be the essence of what FAAM is all about – get the best minds on a subject in a room and challenge convention. For attendees, this has the potential to be a game-changing couple of hours.

Day two starts in a similar vein to the first, with a second talk on asbestos in talc. Fred Boelter will look at communicating the risk. I am particularly looking forward to both of the talks on this subject, as asbestos in talc has the potential to become ‘another smoking’. By that I mean it’s becoming understood among the industry as an avoidable risk, but one that so far remains totally unrecognised by the general public.

Day two continues with two very timely talks. Asbestos is the most regulated industry after nuclear, yet for decades its main control measure has been polythene and tape. Our main detection method is the near-century-old technique of phase contrast microscopy (PCM), and when it comes to disposing of our deadly material we bury it in the ground.

For too long, technology seemed to be something that happened to other industries. However, in the past few years there have been vast strides in control measures and medical treatment. Just before lunch, Sebastian Schmitt will explore asbestos detection instruments, promising to link history and potential future developments to give us a better picture of how detection is evolving. After lunch, Yvonne Waterman and Jasper Kosters will cover denaturation – changing the form or makeup of asbestos with the ultimate goal of eliminating it from the environment altogether.

All in all, the brilliant programme suggests the FAAM’s event will continue where the EAF leaves off, with leading speakers addressing both the key interests of, and the challenges facing our industry today. In fact, with EAF just the week before, the two feel much like a four-day conference split over two centres. I’d strongly recommend that anyone with a professional interest in asbestos should plan to attend both.

The FAAM conference takes place at the Crowne Plaza in Nottingham on 19-20 November. For full details and to download the programme in full, click here.

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