Occupational Health & Safety

Regulations for Asbestos Work Tightened in Britain

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 took effect April 6. The changes concern recordkeeping, notification, and ultimately medical surveillance for non-licensed work.

Updated regulations took effect April 6 in Britain to govern tasks during which workers may be exposed to asbestos. The changes for the most part concern recordkeeping, notification of authorities, and ultimately medical surveillance for those doing non-licensed work.

That type of work does not require air monitoring on every job if an estimate of each worker's exposure can be made based on past experience or published guidance, according to the new Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. They say employers must keep "brief written records" of non-licensed work, including a list of workers on the job and the level of likely exposure of those workers to asbestos. They define "licensable work with asbestos" as work:

(a) where the exposure to asbestos of employees is not sporadic and of low intensity; or
(b) in relation to which the risk assessment cannot clearly demonstrate that the control limit will not be exceeded; or
(c) on asbestos coating; or
(d) on asbestos insulating board or asbestos insulation for which the risk assessment:
(i) demonstrates that the work is not sporadic and of low intensity, or
(ii) cannot clearly demonstrate that the control limit will not be exceeded, or
(iii) demonstrates that the work is not short duration work.

The new regulations were undertaken because the European Commission believed the United Kingdom had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to asbestos (Directive 2009/148/EC). However, much of the previous regulatory framework has not changed. For example, the requirements for licensed work did not change. The control limit for asbestos remains 0.1 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter of air; employers are reminded that the control limit is not a "safe" level and exposure from work activities involving asbestos must be reduced as far below the control limit as possible, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE says most work with asbestos, including all work with sprayed asbestos coatings, is licensed work that must be done by a licensed contractor, and training is mandatory for anyone who is liable to be exposed to asbestos at work, including maintenance workers.

By April 2015, all workers and self-employed people doing notifiable non-licensed work with asbestos must be under health surveillance by a doctor. HSE notes workers already under health surveillance for licensed work do not need another medical examination for non-licensed work, but medicals for notifiable non-licensed work are not acceptable for doing licensed work.

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