UK Asbestos Regulations effective, but listed for abolition by government at the end of the year
The British Occupational Hygiene Society, a leading scientific body and the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection has welcomed the findings of a review by the Health and Safety Executive of the Control of Asbestos Regulations. However, it highlights alarm that these regulations are listed for potential abolition at the end of the year by the Retained European Law Bill along with all the other major regulations protecting health in the workplace.
The Health and Safety Executive’s review findings uksiod_20120632_en.pdf (norac.org.uk) were made available in advance of the publication by the National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants (NORAC) last week. It highlighted that the regulations were effective and should be retained, but there was further scope to regulate work around asbestos surveying and removal. Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Asbestos-related diseases currently kill around 5000 people a year in Great Britain.
NORAC and ATAC recently published research which highlighted that the risks to the public and workers from asbestos being managed, rather than being removed, was significantly greater than had been previously thought ATAC_NORAC_Asbestos_Report.pdf.
The Society, which hosts the professional standards body for asbestos scientists, the Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM), is concerned that by 2024 the Asbestos Regulations may nonetheless be either significantly diluted or scrapped entirely as a result of being classed as “retained EU law.”
Registrar of FAAM and NORAC Committee Member, Jonathan Grant, comments: “It is almost unbelievable that the Asbestos Regulations, which are essential to save lives, could be listed for potential repeal. We urgently need confirmation by the government that our health and safety is not going to be diluted.”
The UK has led the world in the science and effective regulation of asbestos, arising from the very high levels of asbestos used for building and other purposes up until its ban in 1999. Prior to the advent of government control, BOHS was responsible for setting occupational exposure standards. However, the government has declined to follow the approach that the European Union has taken to further reduce the acceptable exposure levels for workers.
“Asbestos, noise, radiation, gas safety and indeed the whole mechanism for management of health in the workplace are listed as retained EU law to be repealed, restated or amended. Most of these standards have been pioneered in the UK. The UK fought the European Commission over decades to retain its unique and effective approach to Health and Safety Management and the REUL Bill is likely to throw this all away,” says BOHS Chief Executive, Professor Kevin Bampton.
A list of significant regulations scheduled to be repealed can be found here.