The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) today published a consultative document seeking comments on proposed amendments to its asbestos regulations and an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP).
Giles Denham, Policy Programme Director at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said: “Although asbestos is no longer imported or used, there is still cause for concern. It is estimated that about half a million non-domestic premises contain some form of asbestos. HSE continues to improve standards of protection for around 9,000 asbestos removal workers in the licensed sector and the 1.3 million repair and maintenance workers who may be exposed. The proposed regulatory package provides a stronger and better targeted regulatory framework.”
The proposed changes will implement revisions to the EU Asbestos Worker Protection Directive 83/477/EEC in Great Britain. The draft regulations include a single, tighter control limit for work with all types of asbestos; specific training requirements for those working with asbestos; and a clear hierarchy of controls that should be used to reduce exposure, based on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (COSHH).
HSC is taking this opportunity to simplify and rationalise the legislative regime by combining the three sets of current asbestos regulations - on controls, licensing and prohibitions - into one. It is also proposing to align the criteria for notifying the enforcing authority of work with asbestos with the requirement to have an HSE asbestos licence.
The regulations will adopt a risk-based approach to licensing, reflecting risk criteria in the directive. Certain types of work where exposure to asbestos will only be ‘sporadic and low intensity’ and below the control limit will not need to be done by a licensed contractor. HSC provides authoritative guidance on the types of work that will be exempt from licensing in the draft ACoP.
In practice, most work that currently needs to be done under licence will remain licensable. Based on new research, HSC proposes that work on textured decorative coatings containing asbestos, will not need to be done by a licensed contractor. Risks from these materials are much lower than previously thought: estimated to be 1000 times less than that for other licensable materials, and lower than that from work with asbestos cement which doesn’t require a licence.
Giles Denham continued: “HSC is not saying that work with asbestos containing textured coatings is safe: it still needs proper control measures. All work with asbestos, whether or not it needs to be done under licence, must be done by competent people with the appropriate controls.”
Further details of the changes can be found in the Consultation Document and the draft Regulations at www.hse.gov.uk/consult/live.htm.