Owners and managers of commercial premises, employers whose workers use, install, remove, maintain or demolish premises that may contain asbestos and businesses providing construction or building services are all affected by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, which came into force on 13 November 2006. They consolidate three previous sets of regulations covering the prohibition of asbestos, the control of asbestos at work and asbestos licensing and strengthen the requirement to protect workers by minimising exposure to asbestos.
Employers using their own workers on their own premises are no longer exempt from the licensing requirements.
The Regulations require mandatory training for anyone liable to be exposed to asbestos fibres at work. This includes maintenance workers and others who may come into contact with or who may disturb asbestos, as well as those involved in asbestos removal work.
The Regulations introduce a single Control Limit for all types of asbestos of 0.1 fibres per cm³. A Control Limit is a maximum concentration of asbestos fibres in the air (measured over any continuous 4 hour period) that must not be exceeded.
In addition, short term exposures must be strictly controlled and worker exposure should not exceed 0.6 fibres per cm³ of air, averaged over any continuous 10 minute period, using respiratory protective equipment if exposure cannot be reduced sufficiently using other means.
Most asbestos removal work must be undertaken by a licensed contractor but any decision on whether particular work is licensable is based on the risk involved. Work is only exempt from licensing if:
- the exposure of employees to asbestos fibres is sporadic and of low intensity; and
- it is clear from the risk assessment that the short-term exposure limit of any employee to asbestos will not be exceeded.
The Regulations also introduce less stringent controls on working with textured decorative coatings which contain asbestos as the risks these pose are considered to be much lower than previously thought.
Anyone carrying out work on asbestos insulation, asbestos coating or asbestos insulating board needs a licence issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) unless they meet one of the exemptions.
From 6 April 2007, a clearance certificate for re-occupation may only be issued by a body accredited to do so. At the moment, such accreditation can only be provided by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service.
Further information can be found on the website of the Health and Safety Executive.