Proposed new asbestos regulations
New Health and Safety Commission proposals to let asbestos-filled textured coatings be removed by companies without an asbestos removal licence have been heavily criticised by prominent trade unions.
Despite protests from more than 115 MPs, who forced a debate over the issue earlier this year, the HSC has pressed ahead with plans to remove textured coatings containing asbestos from the licensing regime. The HSC claims research shows that levels of exposure to asbestos fibres when carrying out such work are much lower than previously thought and lower than the proposed new control limit when carried out using good practice. The HSC also stated the risks from textured coatings were comparable to those from other unlicensed asbestos products, such as asbestos cement and floorings.
The TUC and the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians are concerned that workers such as electricians, carpenters and plumbers will be put in jeopardy. Amicus health and safety officer Rob Miguel said: "We do not agree with this relaxation on textured coatings. Even if the risk is small, it's still a risk." Amicus is also calling for asbestos cement to be included in the licensing regime.
During the parliamentary debate, Michael Clapham MP, said that the research the HSC used was flawed, noting critics claimed that the findings did not reflect the level of exposure that would take place in the real world. He added: "Textured coatings in domestic premises will be removed by unlicensed contractors with the danger that they will not use the protection necessary to ensure airborne fibres are not left when the family returns."
The proposals come as part of a general revision and tightening of asbestos regulations.
Paradoxically, the new regulations reduce existing exposure limits and introduce a lower control limit of 0.1 fibres per cm3 of air for work with all types of asbestos. The final decision lies with parliament, but the HSC hopes the regulations will be in place before the end of the year.
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