Warnings that ‘sunsetting’ bill could harm asbestos health and safety
From our colleagues at Barbour EHS.
Government plans to ‘sunset’ rafts of European Union-derived laws by the end of the year could mean the loss of important asbestos health and safety regulations, the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) has warned.
BOHS, along with the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, has welcomed the findings of a review by the Health and Safety Executive into the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
The review, which was recently published by the National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants (NORAC), highlighted that the regulations were effective and should be retained, but there was further scope to regulate work around asbestos surveying and removal.
However, BOHS, which hosts the professional standards body for asbestos scientists, the Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM), has expressed concern that the regulations could nonetheless either be significantly diluted or scrapped entirely as a result of being classed as ‘retained EU law’ and therefore fall foul of the government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, currently going through parliament, is set automatically to scrap more than 2,400 laws, dating from the UK’s time as a member of the bloc. It is set to take effect from the end of December.
Jonathan Grant, registrar of FAAM and a NORAC committee member, said:
“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.”
NORAC and Asbestos Testing and Consultancy ATAC recently published research that has argued that the risks to the public and workers from asbestos being managed, rather than being removed, is significantly greater than had been previously thought.
This concluded that “there is currently a high proportion of asbestos materials in UK buildings that could present a potential risk to public health, and which need remediation or removal.” Overall asbestos management in many of the premises surveyed was failing, it added.
“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gas safety and indeed the whole mechanism for management of health in the workplace are listed as retained EU law to be repealed, restated or amended,” warned BOHS chief executive Professor Kevin Bampton.
“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,” he added.
There unfortunately remains a large number of premature deaths which are attributed each year to past exposure to asbestos containing materials used across industries including construction. Great care therefore, needs to be taken with regards to the possibility of lightening the range of duties imposed by current legislation designed to adequately prevent exposing people to asbestos.
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This content has been produced in association with our sister company, Barbour.
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