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Revised asbestos regulations in force

Denise Lewisohn, of the Health and Safety Executive, on the revised asbestos regulations which came into force in November

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 were laid in Parliament on 20 October and came into force on 13 November 2006.

The revised regulations will strengthen overall worker protection by reducing exposure limits and introducing mandatory training for any work which involves asbestos.

They will also simplify the regulatory regime and implement revisions to the EU Asbestos Worker Protection Directive.

Commenting on the revised regulations, Minister for Health and Safety, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, said:

“These new provisions will prevent around 6,500 occupational deaths from exposures to asbestos over the next 50 years.

“There is no doubt these regulations are a step forward in the protection of workers and that they will further strengthen controls to reduce future potential deaths from asbestos disease.”

The revised Control of Asbestos Regulations will introduce the following changes:

  • Single control limit of 0.1 fibers per cm3 of air for work with all types of asbestos;
  • Specific mandatory training requirements for anyone liable to be exposed to asbestos;
  • Requirement to analyse the concentration of asbestos in the air with measurements in accordance with the 1997 World Health Organisation recommended method;
  • Practical guidelines for the determination of ‘sporadic and low intensity exposure’ as required by the EU Directive; and
  • Replace three existing sets of Asbestos Regulations.

Most work with asbestos will still need to be undertaken by a licensed contractor but any decision on whether particular work is licensable will now be determined by the risk.

More details of what work is licensable, what training is necessary and how to undertake work with asbestos containing materials can be found in the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) ‘Work with materials containing Asbestos’.

Further guidance on the duty to manage asbestos in premises can be found in the ‘The Management of Asbestos in Non- Domestic Premises’ ACoP.

The revised regulations and two ACoPs providing guidance on complying with the Regulations were published on 13 November.

Don’t take the gamble

Asbestos-related disease caused by past exposure to asbestos is currently responsible for up to 3,500 deaths a year, which makes it the UK’s biggest work related killer.

Maintenance workers are now most at risk, which is why it is essential that dutyholders - those with responsibility for maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises - comply with asbestos law.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral and has been used for about 150 years on a commercial basis. It is versatile, plentiful and was ideal as a fireproofing and insulation material.

Most asbestos containing material in good condition is safe. Asbestos is only dangerous when it is in a loose form, disturbed or worked on as this can release asbestos fibres into the air.

If these fibres are breathed in, they may damage the lungs and can lead to serious diseases, including cancer. This is why it is vital to prevent or control exposure now.

Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in Great Britain from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s but some forms were used up until 1999.

Any type of building (factories, offices, schools, hospitals, homes, etc) could contain asbestos and it is estimated that more than 500,000 non-domestic premises still contain it in some form.

Asbestos containing materials (ACMs) come in many different forms and identification is not easy, making it a real threat. Further guidance is available from: www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos