Assure 360

With Covid still here and big events like the Hazardous Materials Expo already postponed – again – this year’s conference season promises to be very different. Happily, some events are still going ahead, albeit virtually.

On 18-19 November the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) and the Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM) are presenting what will be my first ever virtual conference. While I’m not sure what to expect, I am indeed looking forward to it.

The conference programme kickstarts with a review of the asbestos control limit: the limit for asbestos concentration beyond which legally imposed controls become necessary. Sam Lord of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and Rick Pomeroy of ABP Associates, will be talking about the history and challenges of air testing during works. I’m curious to know whether they’ll expand the conversation to take a broader look at licensed contracting and testing against the contractor’s own internal procedures – often much more stringent than the old control limit.

After the break on day one it’s the turn of Garry Burdett, principal scientist at the Health and Safety Laboratory. He’ll be giving us the lowdown on the implications of work done by the European Chemical Agency and the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency. Are we set for a change in the control limit? Sam Lord takes the final slot before lunch to give us a progress report on the Analysts’ Guide. Astonishingly my white paper on the draft is still relevant, several years on.

Working lunch

After lunch I’m keenly looking forward to what most people might see as a minor part of the sessions. When we became aware last year about asbestos identified in some marble, my concern was not so much ‘is that kitchen worktop hazardous’, as whether the worker cutting the slab to size was adequately protected. We haven’t heard much on that yet – hopefully we will on 18 November.

In the morning of the second day the programme will cover some interesting developments in duty holder training, along with the HSE’s view on where we are failing in this area. The final afternoon is taken up by technology and myth busting sessions – always a great way to end a conference!

If you have not signed up, I urge you to do so. In a year where so much of the usual industry networking and discussion has been blocked by the need to maintain social distancing, the FAAM conference takes on even greater significance than usual. And as with so many long overdue catch ups – while we can’t be there in person, doing so virtually is the next best thing.

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"The new system is better. Obviously it takes a few days to get used to the app, but once you do it's quicker. It's exactly the same checks you'd be doing with a paper system, but you haven't got the folder. You haven't got the paper there, it's just done on a small screen. It's made my job easier."
Mark McGonagle, Major Works Supervisor, Asbestech