Asbestos containing materials is estimated to be in approximately half a million non-domestic buildings and a million domestic ones. Five thousand people die prematurely every year in the UK as a result of asbestos exposure.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health believes that the time has come to put in place regulations requiring the safe, phased and planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place.
It is calling for legislation with a timetable for the eradication of asbestos in every workplace in Britain. It also wants a national programme of asbestos surveys and all home-buyers’ surveys to include asbestos reports.
Among its recommendations are:
• All commercial, public, and rented domestic premises should have to conduct, and register with the Health & Safety Executive, a survey done by a registered consultant that indicates whether asbestos containing material is present, and, if so, where it is and in what condition. This should be completed no later than 2022.
• Where asbestos is identified in any premises, all refurbishment, repair or remedial work done in the vicinity of the asbestos containing material should include the removal of the asbestos. Where no such work takes place, or is planned within the foreseeable future, the dutyholder must develop and implement a plan for the removal of all asbestos which ensures that removal is completed as soon as is reasonably practical but certainly no later than 2035. In the case of public buildings and educational establishments, such as schools, this should be done by 2028.
• The HSE, local authorities and other enforcing agencies must develop a programme of workplace inspections to verify that all asbestos containing material identified is properly marked and managed, and that asbestos eradication plans are in place and include, as part of the plan, an acceptable timeframe for the eradication. Resources should be made available to the enforcing agencies to ensure that they can ensure that all workplaces and public places are complying with the regulation relating to management and removal, and that disposal is being done responsibly and safely.
• Before any house sale is completed, a survey should be done which includes a survey of the presence of asbestos. Any asbestos containing material should be labelled. Information on the presence of asbestos should be given to any contractor working on the house.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, chair of the all-party group, said: “There is far too much complacency about the asbestos which we can still find in hundreds of thousands of workplaces as well as a majority of schools where children face exposure to this killer dust. We believe that the government needs to start now on developing a programme to ensure that asbestos is safely removed from every workplace and public place so that we can end, once and for all this dreadful legacy which has killed so many people, and will continue to kill until asbestos is eradicated.”
Ucatt national secretary Brian Rye welcomed the report. He said: “This report demonstrates that new regulations are urgently needed in order to ensure that construction workers undertaking maintenance and refurbishment work are properly protected. Workers should not be expected to play Russian roulette with their health.”