Tackling asbestos 17 October 2018

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) has launched a Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM). Adam Offord speaks to Colette Willoughby, director at Asbestos Compliance, BOHS principal examiner for asbestos, and FAAM deputy registrar, to find out what benefits it can bring to asbestos professionals

The Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM) has been set up, and sits within, the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the UK’s chartered society for worker health protection. Launched in October 2017, the faculty aims to provide a place for asbestos professionals – surveyors, analysts, consultants, facilities managers, duty holders, project managers, and other asbestos professionals – to come together to learn, develop and progress.

FAAM’s vision is to pursue excellence for all those who practise in the asbestos assessment and management profession; establish, develop and maintain standards of competence in asbestos assessment and management practice for those who are members of FAAM; and act as the guardian of professional standards and ethics in the profession of asbestos assessment and management.

Official data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers each year. The material can be present in buildings constructed or refurbished up to the year 2000. FAAM’s aim, therefore, is to help ensure asbestos professionals can operate with the relevant levels of competency and expertise, so that the ongoing issues caused by asbestos can be reduced.

FAAM deputy registrar Colette Willoughby explains that prior to FAAM there was “no one body” that asbestos individuals could be a part of. She says that various voices in the asbestos industry came together with the view that something had to be done.

“We did a questionnaire that went out to the membership of BOHS and it asked if there was a need for something – a group or faculty – to bring individuals together to help support their professional status, to help them learn, and to share experiences, and the responses from that were ‘yes’ and ‘it’s long overdue’.

“That was the driver then to approach what became the stakeholders, such as the representatives from the HSE and representatives from industry, to be able to form an initial board, to look at what is achievable, how we put this in place, and how we launch as well.

“There are a lot of associations and organisations, but thousands of people that work in the asbestos industry and no way to identify how good one person is against another,” she explains. “You get cowboys in all walks of life and it was about having something that people could be a part of and be recognised for through professional standards.”

Being a member of FAAM enables individuals to take part in a professional network, keep up-to-date with industry news, gain recognition within the asbestos industry, and educate themselves.

“Initially, because it was a new faculty and we wanted to get it running, we had only really thought about the UK,” adds Willoughby. “But, once it launched, we started getting applicants from other countries because the UK is seen as one of the leaders in managing asbestos and its risks.”

FAAM membership is delivered through a defined set of levels, going from technician level to associate, licentiate, member and fellow. Membership is underpinned by qualifications and experience, but as a starting point the minimum qualification entry requirement is set at Level 4 (for qualification specifics see: https://is.gd/sosago).

Being a membership organisation, there is a cost involved with joining FAAM, however that depends on the membership level an individual is applying for – technician (£82 + £25 joining fee), associate (£90 + £25 joining fee), licentiate (£100 + £25 joining fee), member (£120 + £25 joining fee + £545 application fee), and fellow (£120 + £25 joining fee + £130 application fee).

Willoughby adds: “The lower levels are mostly aimed at people who are new to industry, which we wanted to attract. We acknowledged that at their level they probably won’t be earning a huge amount of money, so the fees are structured in that way.”

At the time of writing, FAAM membership stood at around 260 members, and the faculty wants to continue to grow and support asbestos professionals.

It is also holding a two-day conference – from 8-9 November – to mark the anniversary of the launch. Asbestos professionals from across the globe will be in attendance to share their experiences of how they deal with asbestos. Find out more about FAAM by visiting: https://is.gd/equgow.

Adam Offord

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