The UK banned the importation, supply, and use of asbestos over 20 years ago. Yet its impact and prevalence of this substance continue. Asbestos is the primary cause of work-related deaths. Reports indicate that fatalities number over 5,000 in the UK as of 2019. Although experts understand its impact on our health, asbestos continues to claim lives in the UK workforce.
In April 2022, the Work and Pensions Committee published a report examining how to address asbestos removal in the workplace. In this article, we look at the report's recommendations and the implications for UK workers.
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The report highlights that while asbestos exposure will not reach the levels seen during the 20th century, it is still a significant issue affecting many workers each year. It also states that asbestos exposure is likely to increase as buildings are adapted to meet net-zero commitments and more asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are disturbed.
For this reason, the report proposes that the UK government and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) update their current asbestos removal plan with a clear strategy and time frame.
The report suggests that the UK should remove all asbestos from all non-domestic buildings within 40 years. Any plan to do so should first target high-risk forms of asbestos and settings such as schools.
The Report made recommendations in relation to non-domestic properties only. This includes industrial, commercial, or public buildings, such as warehouses, factories, schools, hospitals, offices, and shops. It clarifies that it includes common areas of specific domestic properties, such as corridors, lifts, staircases, gardens, and garages. The report recommends the development of a central register for asbestos in non-domestic buildings. For more information on which properties are non-domestic, click here to view the HSE's guidance.
The report criticises the HSE's lack of research into the safe removal and disposal of asbestos and the costs and benefits associated with doing so. It also found that the HSE has reduced inspection and enforcement action, even though no evidence suggests that adherence to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 has improved.
The committee behind the report clarifies that the HSE should increase its research into asbestos disposal and removal and its enforcement action to ensure compliance with asbestos legislation. The report advocates for the additional government funding this action will require.
You can read the Health and Safety Executive's approach to asbestos management report in full here. Or click here to view the inquiry's page on the UK Parliament website, which will be updated when any new documents, events, or news regarding this report are published.
While this report is still awaiting a government response, it will likely increase the number of people working with asbestos in the coming decades, including those carrying out licensable asbestos work, prompting an increase in the asbestos training requirements of a wide range of organisations.
At Commodious, we offer an IATP-approved online Asbestos Awareness training course that is ideal for those who work around, but not directly with, asbestos at work. To find out more about this course, use the link below:
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