Asbestos is once again in the news, following the introduction
of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAWR) 2002 in November last
Attracting particular attention is Regulation 4, which comes
into force in May 2004 and establishes an explicit new duty to manage the risk
from asbestos in non-domestic premises.
IOSH welcomes CAWR as a positive contribution to tackling the
UK’s greatest workplace killer – at least 3,000 people die each year from
asbestos-related diseases, usually many years after they were exposed to
airborne fibres. It is encouraging ‘duty holders’ to address active compliance
with the regulations now.
People controlling premises and those controlling access to
premises will be required to take reasonable steps to identify where asbestos
may exist; to presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong
evidence to the contrary; keep up-to-date records of the location and condition
of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs); assess the risk of the release of
fibres from any ACMs; plan to properly control that risk; implement, monitor
and review their plans; and ensure that employees, contractors, etc, are
adequately informed and instructed of the precautions to be taken.
Nonetheless, IOSH also recognises that unscrupulous contractors
might use the new legal provisions to encourage unnecessary asbestos removal.
Further updates on asbestos were heard by delegates at IOSH’s
annual conference, held in Glasgow last month. Professor Julian Peto, head of
the epidemiology section at the Institute of Cancer Research, whose talk, ‘Is
asbestos still a major health hazard?’, considered the latest figures on
mesothelioma mortality, the dangers presented by current exposure from asbestos
in older buildings, epidemiological evidence on varying dangers of brown, blue
and white asbestos, and activities of the asbestos industry in developing