DCU’s and Female Analysts

NORAC was recently contacted by a journalist asking for clarification on the current status of DCU's and specifically the problems faced by female analysts using them.

Private Eye Magazine published the following article:

Women whose job is to independently check asbestos that has been removed from buildings by contractors say industry and regulator policies are leaving them at risk of sexual harassment and assault.

While asbestos-related risks to analysts have reduced over the years thanks to improved controls for managing the material, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) mandates on what to wear when carrying out clearance testing have got stricter — now requiring removal of all clothing when wearing disposable overalls. Analysts often need to go into a decontamination unit to shower, or to remove overalls and put clothes back on. Standard decontamination units are unlocked with a keypad from the outside, meaning external access is easy.

The Female Analysts Working Group (made up of industry workers) say that in recent years naked men have been known to follow women into showers — sometimes by accident, resulting in embarrassment for everyone, but on multiple occasions with sinister intent, and women report that they have been assaulted while decontaminating.

The group want asbestos removal contractors to upgrade units voluntarily so they can be locked from the inside, or for the HSE to make it a requirement that they do. It also wants the HSE to allow clothes to be worn under overalls in more situations.

An HSE staff member has joined the working group, but the regulator says it has no plans to change its clothing requirements or make contractors upgrade their decontamination units.

Colette Willoughby, chair of the Female Analysts Working Group and of the National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants, said: "Unless change is mandated by HSE or another external body, it won't actually happen. The removal industry is a male industry and in their minds this doesn't affect them. They think, 'Why do we need to spend money if we don't have to’

 

It's imperative that industry stakeholders recognize and address the inherent risks faced by female analysts, not only for the sake of their safety but also for the integrity of the industry as a whole.

By implementing measures such as upgraded, secure decontamination units and revisiting clothing requirements, we can create a safer and more inclusive working environment for all.

It's time for action, not just rhetoric, to ensure that no individual feels vulnerable or threatened in the pursuit of their profession.

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