Risk of asbestos exposure, BBC staff warned

Asbestos exposure risk

12.10.2006

Current and former BBC employees and freelance staff have been warned that they may have been at risk of asbestos exposure when working in three studios at Television Centre between 1990 and 2005.

The BBC has issued a public notice sayings there is a possibility that the bonding agent used in fire protection material sprayed onto roof beams in studios TC2, TC3 and TC5 may have deteriorated. This deterioration recently resulted in some asbestos fibres drifting down concealed cable ducts and falling onto parts of the studio floor, and the BBC say it is possible some studio operations may have disturbed these areas, risking asbestos exposure to those nearby.

In its statement the BBC says:

"The BBC acknowledges the serious risk to health caused by exposure to asbestos-containing materials. Through its effective management arrangements the BBC demonstrates how it satisfies its obligations with respect to the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (CAWR 2002), controls the hazard and reduces the risk of exposure as far as is reasonably practicable.

Although the level of risk is negligible, the BBC is asking anyone who currently, or has previously, worked in these studios between the period 1990 and 2005 to register themselves with the BBC and obtain further advice.

The theatre and TV technicians' union BECTU had already set up its own asbestos exposure register as an invaluable database of information that can help to speed up the process of compensation claims for members who become ill due to asbestos exposure".

BECTU says the material was commonly used around and in film and television sets, to lag pipes, in lighting equipment, protective equipment such as fireproof suits and gloves and to construct temporary rooms and to make buildings fireproof for stunts involving fire. Both BECTU and the NUJ are encouraging staff and freelances who worked in the three studios affected to register with the BBC.

Risk of asbestos exposure unknown

The number of people who might have worked at the BBC during this period, and the level of the risk of asbestos exposure, is not known. Speaking to Workplace Law, a spokesman for the BBC said:

"It would be difficult to speculate on how many people worked in the studios during this time due to the ad-hoc nature of the way the studios are used.

"Part of the remedial works being undertaken where asbestos materials are contained is also a designated restricted operational area (studio gantry and grid) where a permit-to-work system operates.

"It should be emphasised that the remedial work being under taken is a precautionary measure and that the risk of exposure is negligible."

The BBC says it intends to remove the public notice from its health and safety website in two weeks time, as agreed with the unions involved.

If you or a loved one has been affected by an asbestos related illness, our solicitors can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos Claims page for more information.