Asbestos - meeting the 40-year deadline

The Work and Pensions Committee recently published the Government response to its report on the HSE’s approach to asbestos management. The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) was invited to attend as a witness to the recent UK Parliament, Work and Pensions Committee on “The Health and Safety Executive’s approach to asbestos management”


One recommendation posing huge implications for the asbestos industry is to “remove asbestos from all non-domestic buildings within 40 years”.
With many rebuilding their organisations coming out of the pandemic, which could take many years, and the current cost to businesses increasing, it is well acknowledged that asbestos removal poses a risk, albeit low when undertaken correctly. However, with the cost of asbestos removal, some may decide to take this work on themselves without the correct knowledge and skills, thus increasing the risk. Another consideration is where the hazardous waste will go? Currently, it is deposited in landfill, but with a huge increase in removal, these landfill sites will become full, and there are other environmental impacts to consider.
Asbestos removal, other than removing the hazard, doesn’t save businesses money and in some cases, they are paying twice as much, one for the removal and then reinstatement costs.

HSE approach
The HSE approach has always been to leave asbestos in place if it is in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed, which may need to be a factor in the decision to remove asbestos within 40 years.
The committee recommended the implementation of a “central digital register for non-domestic buildings, highlighting its location and type”. One of the key roles in effective asbestos management has always been to share information with all those that need to know the location of the asbestos containing materials (ACMs). With this ideology, it ensures all those that are likely to come into contact with asbestos will be informed and instructed as to its location and condition. This will assist in their work assessments with the ultimate objective in preventing exposure to asbestos being met.
This recommendation would need to be adequately controlled, ensuring only the correct people can access such data and be used to prevent asbestos disturbance. However, caution would need to be considered with access by members of the public, as they may not be aware of the risk of asbestos and are un-trained and often ill-informed about the risk of asbestos, especially when it is being adequately managed in a managed environment, which could raise unnecessary concerns and fears of those accessing non-domestic buildings, especially public buildings.

Increased inspections
With regards to the recommendation for more “sustained increase in inspection and enforcement”, UKATA believe this is required. With government ensuring that it provides “adequate funding”, this can only result in more inspections and identification of non-compliance with all aspects of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
HSE have actively inspected licensed asbestos removal contractors for many years. However, with an increased programme, HSE could focus on areas such as Duty Holders, ensuring the duty to manage is being complied with and duty holders are actively managing asbestos, rather than just ensuring they have an asbestos survey. Many believe this meets the requirement, falling short of compliance, with no up-to-date asbestos register, no active and utilised action plan and more importantly no communication plan.
From increased inspections, HSE would be better placed to assess the competency of the duty holders and “whether it needs to specify minimum knowledge, training or other requirements for people performing this critical role.” In 2006, HSE released the ACoP L143, and specified the minimum training for trade operatives and others likely to come into contact with asbestos during their day-to-day work activities would need to have, as a minimum, asbestos awareness training. This was a game changer for the construction sector. All that are employed are provided with the basic asbestos awareness, informing them as to the location of ACMs and what to do in the event of accidental disturbance, with an ultimate aim to prevent their exposure and prevent others from becoming exposed to asbestos. This additional requirement had a huge positive effect on the construction sector, as prior to this, many were not aware of what asbestos was, the dangers of the material and where it could be found in premises. With this increased knowledge, workers were asking the correct questions and identifying asbestos, or what they presumed to be asbestos, before they disturbed the fabric of the building, thus resulting in a reduction of exposure to asbestos across the sector.
Unfortunately, there was no minimum standard of information, instruction, and training for duty holders. Because of this lack of standard and the need for a specific course for duty holders and appointed persons, UKATA developed the UKATA Duty to Manage – Appointed Person (DTMAP) three-day training course which covers in detail the duties required to actively manage asbestos within premises. Since its launch in 2018, the DTMAP has been an enormous success and the uptake for this training continues to increase.

The recommendation that the HSE should commit to investing more in sustained campaigning work, is very much supported by UKATA. Over the past 14 years, UKATA has supported and promoted many HSE campaigns and will continue to support future campaigns through its own platforms and media channels to its nearly 200 members and 10,000 monthly website visitors.
There are thousands of asbestos surveys undertaken in the UK daily, the majority of these are undertaken by accredited organisations that have met a strict quality and technical standard set down in ISO 17020 and HSG264. However, many asbestos surveys are undertaken by organisations and individuals with no accreditation. For many years, this standard hasn’t been a mandatory requirement, unlike the clearance testing following on from asbestos removal works, any organisation undertaking the certificate of reoccupation is required to hold accreditation in the UK.

With the recommendation that the HSE “makes it mandatory for all people conducting asbestos surveys to be accredited”, this is a huge leap forward in ensuring that all organisations or individuals meet the quality standards that have been in place for many years. This would ensure that the quality of surveys and inspections would increase and reduce the likelihood of missed asbestos containing materials, which inevitably will have an adverse increase in exposure and spread of asbestos. UKATA fully supports this recommendation.

Established in 2008, UKATA is a highly respected, leading authority on asbestos training. Its passion is to both maintain and improve asbestos training, ensuring the highest standards are upheld by means of continual quality assessment.
UKATA continuously works within current legislation as a minimum, whilst collaborating with industry partners to ensure that the UK has the highest standards of asbestos safety.
UKATA freely shares knowledge and information both online and across social media, demonstrating that education remains their top priority.

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