Derek Maylor, NW BT Unions H&S Co-ord member and Health & Safety Officer (Telecom section) of the CWU's Grter Mersey Amal Branch; reports on the CWU NW Health & Safety Forum's response to the HSE's May Asbestos Survey
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) second post implementation review (PIR) of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012 (CAR12) began with the launch a survey on 21 May 2021 and was an opportunity for the NW Forum to make a contribution to the ongoing regulation of asbestos.
The survey was similar to previous ones form the HSE opening by asking if the CAR 2012 framework for preventing exposure to asbestos from work activity was reasonably useful, which it is, or is the legislative change for business justified, which it is.
However we’d add that it does not meet the aims and objectives in protecting workers from the risks of asbestos as CAR 2012 is not fully enforced and the suggested imposing less regulation would be watering down the water – workers need strong regulation strongly enforced. In safety speak, the principles are sound but there is not suitable and sufficient enforcement to catch or deter cavalier abusers.
The survey went on to discuss Licensable Work, Notifiable Non-Licensed Work and Non-Notifiable Work where our engineers and building maintenance colleagues would (generally) fall into the latter.
However CAR 2012 places “Duty to Manage” asbestos on the owners of non-domestic buildings like our exchanges, call centres, sorting offices, mail centres etc. This is most important and involves identifying, risk assessing, recording the location/condition of asbestos and producing a plan to manage risks from any asbestos in the building.
A bizarre aspect of the survey was a part assessing how much time a company safety officer spends in managing asbestos, almost as if they were looking for the financial cost of making a company adhere to obeying the law. If the law is justified in protecting workers, and clearly it is, the cost of applying that law is not the primary issue but the success of that law in protecting the health safety and welfare of the workers is. For the survey to add at the end of the section “Have there been any other costs as part of CAR 2012?” just shows the direction of travel.
When it is used to approach management CAR 2012 has been of educational value on behalf of members/workers i.e. making it easier for USRs to get recognition from management that asbestos "has not gone away" and that adherence to safe systems of work are not an opt-in.
We concluded by reiterating that CAR 2012 does not go far enough and we need the regulations to require a planned removal of all asbestos that still is in our factories, vast parts of the NHS estate, many educational and industrial buildings. Conservatively, at least three times as many workers die from asbestos exposure every year compared to general public in RTCs. All of the UK Parliaments / Governments should add an Asbestos Eradication Law to their statues to protect future generations.
Following the last survey the HSE made changes to processes and recommendations such as adding clarity around the distinction between the different types of work as well as roles and responsibilities around duty to manage asbestos which were welcome; also the excellent Asbestos Essentials was updated, we shall await the outcome of this survey.
***Post Implementation Review of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos