New regulations to protect construction workers refurbishing commercial properties from asbestos have come into force.
The ‘Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations’ places the onus on commercial property managers to monitor asbestos products in their buildings and ensure that hazardous asbestos is removed and replaced by safe alternatives.
‘Until now, contractors may have been unaware of the dangers they might face when carrying out refurbishment work in commercial properties. These new regulations will ensure that any old, dangerous asbestos in properties is brought to their attention,’ said Construction Minister, Brian Wilson.
‘Asbestos was outlawed from new buildings twenty years ago but the legacy still lives on. In older properties, it is still safer to leave asbestos in place, rather than remove it, when it is still in good condition. It is essential that fibrous or crumbling insulation is highlighted early before it becomes a risk to contractors.’
The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations will require workplace managers with maintenance and repair responsibilities to ascertain whether their buildings contain asbestos and if it presents a risk.
Around half a million premises in the UK are believed to still contain asbestos, and more than 3,000 people currently die each year in Britain from asbestos related disease.
Due to the 30-40 year average latency period between the exposure to asbestos fibres and the onset of these diseases, currently occurring cases relate to exposure in the past.
In 1995 research carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) indicated that at least a quarter of those people dying from asbestos have worked in construction and building operations, based on the last full time job recorded on mesothelioma death certificates.