Control of Asbestos Regulations
It has been 10 years since the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 came into force in the UK, whereby the import, supply and use of all types of asbestos is prohibited and the second hand use of asbestos products is banned, such as asbestos tiles and boards. Greater emphasis is also placed on the correct training of anyone coming into contact with asbestos as part of these Regulations.
This piece of legislation amalgamated 3 pieces of previous asbestos legislation – the 'Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002', the 'Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983' and the 'Asbestos (Prohibitions) Regulations 1992’ and has now been updated to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, which ensures the legislation is fully compliant with the EU Directive 2009/148/EC on the exposure of asbestos regulations as set out by the European Commission. The changes made to update the legislation surround notification of work, record keeping and medical surveillance.
Health Risks posed by Asbestos
Asbestos fibres are absorbed by the body and attach themselves to the tissue in the lungs. The greater the exposure, the greater the load on the body and the higher the risk of the four diseases caused by asbestos inhalation occurring. These are:
- Mesothelioma - fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs
- Asbestos-related lung cancer – almost always fatal
- Asbestosis - a scarring of the lungs, an extremely debilitating disease. Not always fatal.
- Diffuse pleural thickening - the membranes surrounding the lungs thicken, restricting lung expansion whilst breathing.
Symptoms do not develop immediately and can take anywhere between 15-60 years to show; younger people who have been exposed are at greater risk of developing health issues related to asbestos due to the period in which the diseases develop.
Asbestos is directly responsible for over 4000 deaths each year, although this figure is shrinking due to increased awareness and stringent legislation surrounding the use and handling of asbestos and products containing asbestos.
Common materials containing Asbestos
Asbestos was very commonly used in the construction, shipbuilding and manufacturing trades until 1999 when it was banned in the UK due to medical research and awareness of the risk posed to life by the inhalation of fibres. Whilst asbestos in its unbroken form is not dangerous, it must be handled with utmost care, as it is when the material is broken and disturbed that the fibres will spread. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 ensure that all work with asbestos is carried out by a licensed contractor and notified to the appropriate enforcing authority 14 days before work starts. If work is carried out at a site where asbestos is known to be present without meeting all points outlined, hefty fines will be levied and prosecution is also possible. A school in Chelmsford has been recently fined £26,000 with additional costs of £20,000 for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act by carrying out building works in areas that contained asbestos without informing caretakers and contractors working in the area.
Many buildings and components contain asbestos and it is not always easily identified without trained surveillance. These include:
- Floor tiles
- Ceiling tiles
- Textiles including fire blankets and fire suits
- Asbestos cement – used on roofs and exterior building panels
- Pipe lagging and insulation
- Window sills and panelling
- Textured ceiling coatings
- External building panels
- Automotive parts including brakes, valves and gaskets
Did You Know…?
- There are 6 forms of asbestos but only 3 have been commonly used in the past – Amosite, -Chrysotile and Crocidolite.
- Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral, so it is shocking that it can do so much damage to the human body.
- Asbestos has been used for at least the last 4,500 years, originally as part of ceramic cooking pots in East Finland.
- Not all countries have banned the use of asbestos – India, China and Brazil all have continued widespread use of the material.
- Approx. 1000 tons of Asbestos were released into the air upon the collapse of the Twin Towers in NYC, 2001 and many thousands of people have died and are thought to be at risk as a result of this exposure across the city.