Asbestos awareness course for roofers launched

There has, for some time, been a growing recognition that training does not have to mean making every delegate an expert but teaching them what they need to know in their line of work. For example, a plumber with the Part P Defined Scope (PPDS) course can be certified to replace an electric shower without having to be a fully qualified electrician.

In December, Gully Howard Technical (GHT) pledged its support for RoofCERT – a four-year accreditation programme jointly funded by CITB and NFRC that aims to bring together all aspects of the training that is relevant and useful to roofers.

As a CITB-approved training organisation for asbestos awareness and other safety aspects, GHT is said to be well-placed to provide defined-scope training that will address the specific risks roofers face.

Research carried out in 2016 revealed that 40% of construction workers do not even check for an asbestos register before commencing site work. With around 1.5 million site-based construction staff employed in the UK – of which almost 48,000 are roofers – that amounts to over 580,000 workers who are at risk from avoidable asbestos exposure on the job.

While Kirsty Phillips, training manager at Gully Howard Technical was speaking to a room full of roofing industry professionals, it emerged that only a very small number of them were confidently able to identify where asbestos-containing materials might be found on an image of a school building. This was a clear indication that there is still a significant training gap that needs to be bridged in order to enable construction workers to do their jobs safely.

Some of the particular obstacles to workers receiving the best and most useful training include:

  • Finding that much of the content of available training is not relevant to the delegate
  • Limited time available for training
  • Limited budget
  • Finding a convenient location when training centres are few and far between

A conversation reportedly took place between Jonathan Grant (Gully Howard technical MD) and Gary Walpole (NFRC) about what how these obstacles could be overcome with regards to asbestos training at the launch event of the asbestos phase of IOSH’s No Time to Lose (NTTL) campaign. This led on to a fruitful collaboration between GHT training manager, Kirsty Phillips and the NFRC to produce a defined scope online asbestos awareness training course for roofers.

This is a low-cost course which takes about an hour and can be completed on any device, including the worker’s own phone. Certificates are issued electronically on completion. The course is currently being translated into Polish and Lithuanian, with other languages to follow.

The danger of asbestos is real and present, as exemplified by the story of Liam Bradley, a roofer who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in February 2017 at the age of only 30. While Liam is fortunate enough to be still fit and healthy, thousands of other construction workers die of the asbestos-related disease every year.

Institution of Occupational Safety and Health president professor, Vincent Ho, said: “Asbestos is a killer. Many thousands of people die every year from past exposure to asbestos at work. This is unacceptable. No one should have their lives cut short by any work activities.

“Employers must do all they can to prevent workers from being exposed to asbestos, but it is equally important that employees themselves are aware of the dangers. They should be aware of why they must avoid exposure to asbestos and also know what to do if they do come across it.

“This new course for roofing contractors, who are among the most at-risk group, can go some way to achieving this, which is why IOSH supports it.”

The defined scope Asbestos Awareness course is available now and can be found at

NFRC members can get 40% off the full price using code NFRCMbr