LEGAL COMPLIANCE

INTRODUCTION

The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (CAWR) was replaced with the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) in 2006, which was amended in April 2012.

This important piece of legislation tackles the biggest occupational health killer in the UK – asbestos-related disease. Of the 4,000+ people currently dying each year from such diseases, 25% have once worked in the building and maintenance trades and would, perhaps unknowingly, have been in or near to asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). While virtually all other activities involving potential exposure to asbestos have now ceased, evidence suggests that this vulnerable group is still at considerable risk from unknowing exposure to asbestos.

The requirements of the new duty seek to prevent further unknowing exposure to asbestos by building and maintenance workers with the aim of saving 5,000 lives over the next 100 years.

DUTY REQUIREMENTS

The ‘duty to manage’ requires those in control of commercial premises to:

  • take reasonable steps to determine the location and condition of materials likely to contain asbestos.
  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not.
  • make and keep an up to date record of the location and condition of the ACMs or presumed ACMs in the premises.
  • assess the risk of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from these materials.
  • prepare a plan setting out how the risks from the materials are to be managed.
  • take the necessary steps to put the plan into action.
  • review and monitor the plan periodically and provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

ENFORCING THE LAW

HSE and Local Authority inspectors carried out visits to a number of key duty-holders during 2003 and into early 2004 to encourage them to take the steps set out above. The emphasis was on advising duty-holders and assisting them to put management systems in place.

However, if inspectors found that maintenance workers or others were at serious risk of being exposed to asbestos fibres, then enforcement action was taken, which – if it were before May 2004 – involved using other health and safety legislation.

It is appreciated that currently many organisations, because of the size, number and complexity of their premises, may not have been able to have completed all inspections and assessments before the regulation came into force on 21 May 2004.

In those cases, inspectors will not only make sure that the immediate risks have been dealt with, but will also expect to see fully worked compliance strategies, together with implementation timetables to demonstrate how they are working towards full compliance.