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Firm fined for breaching asbestos regulations

Firm fined for breaching asbestos regulations

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching asbestos regulations; workers were not protected from the harmful fibres in asbestos. The seven workers could face health problems later on, including asbestos related cancers such as mesothelioma.

‘The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations’ were introduced in 2002. These regulations mean that employers are obliged to protect their workers from exposure to asbestos. If it is not reasonably practicable for workers to avoid asbestos altogether, exposure needs to be reduced to the lowest possible level. It is also a requirement that employers carry out a thorough risk assessment before any work is done.

Duty holders (building owners, facilities managers etc) have certain responsibilities. They are required to take steps to find asbestos and assess the condition of materials and the risk that they pose and then implement a plan to manage those risks and inform anyone who is likely to disturb the materials.

The ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations’ were introduced in 2006 and supplemented the 2002 regulations. The regulations cover managing asbestos, training and asbestos removal and ban the importation, supply and use of all forms of asbestos. The regulations also continue the ban on second-hand asbestos products such as asbestos cement and asbestos tiles and boards. However if there are existing asbestos materials which are in good condition, the HSE recommends leaving them in place, monitoring their condition and managing the situation to ensure the materials are not disturbed.

The Asbestos Regulations also make it compulsory for anyone who may be exposed to asbestos to have received adequate training. This includes workers who may come into contact with asbestos, such as cable installers, as well as those who are directly involved in asbestos removal work. When work with asbestos is required, the Asbestos Regulations require that workers are protected from breathing in the asbestos fibres. The regulations specify a control limit of 0.1 fibres per cm3 on average over four hours.This means that worker exposure cannot exceed this concentration. In addition, exposure should not exceed 0.6 fibres per cm3 over a period of more than 10 minutes with respiratory protective equipment.

Respiratory protective equipment must be used alongside specific work methods, as detailed by the HSE. Anyone working with asbestos materials must also have been issued with a license by the HSE unless they meet certain exemption criteria. For any licensable work, employers need to inform their local enforcing authority and make sure employees undergo medical surveillance throughout the process.

Before a building is re-occupied after asbestos is removed, someone accredited by the UKAS must inspect it to ensure that it is safe. The Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA) provides accreditation to asbestos removers.

Because of the dangers that asbestos poses, the regulations for working with it are strict in order to ensure workers’ safety. When the asbestos regulations are not followed, the results can be devastating.