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Working with asbestos: changing the rules

The recent £1m fine levied on Marks & Spencer for putting customers at risk from exposure to asbestos has brought the importance of complying with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (CAR 2006) into sharp focus. However, the rules are about to change as the government consultation on proposed amendments comes to an end.

On 4 November the consultation closed into proposed changes to CAR2006, designed to bring the UK into line with European law.  The rules on working with asbestos are changing and employers, building owners, contractors and consultants need to know how they are likely to be affected.

First, the revised regulations will make the requirement to notify and record work with asbestos more stringent for lower risk works. There will also be an increased requirement for medical checks on those working on some kinds of lower risk projects and those of short duration. The message here is that the risk to employees may be less than on some types of project but must still be taken seriously.

The other proposed change is that in future there should be three, not two, categories of asbestos-related works.

These are:

  • Licensed works – no change to the existing regulations.
  • Duty holders must still:
  • Hold a license
  • Make arrangements to deal with problems arising such as accidents and emergencies
  • Designate asbestos area
  • Notify the HSE of any works involving asbestos
  • Carry out medical checks on employees and
  • Maintain records for each employee, detailing the asbestos work they have undertaken.

Non-licensed works – no change to the existing regulations whereby duty holders are exempt from the requirements of licensed works.

Notifiable non-licensed works – this is a new category whereby dutyholders are exempt from the need to hold a license, to have arrangements in place to deal with emergencies or to designate an asbestos area. However, they must still notify the HSE of asbestos works, carry out medical examinations and maintain records of employees working with asbestos.

Guidance will be produced by the HSE to help the industry understand how to work effectively with the new regulations. The way in which the guidance is set out and what it covers will be the subject of a second consultation to be announced in the near future.

For more information, go to www.hse.gov.uk

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