Author: Gillian Birkby
This article was originally published on www.building.co.uk
Protecting workers from the effects of asbestos has been a priority of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for several years, so it is surprising to find that the Asbestos Regulations 2006 apparently did not fully implement the EU directive on asbestos.
While there could be some debate on whether the 2006 Regulations were compliant, HSE has now introduced some changes to the Regulations to meet the requirements of the European Commission, and these took effect on 6 April 2012. The changes in these latest Regulations affect work at the lower levels of risk.
What areas of asbestos management have not changed?
The non-licensed work under the previous Regulations is now divided into two categories; some notified, and the rest not. There is therefore a new category of notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW). Work falling into this category was previously non-licensed but involves working with asbestos containing materials which are either friable or not well bonded, and a sporadic exposure of low intensity, not exceeding the control limit of 0.1 asbestos fibres per cubic centimetre of air. This includes, for example, repairing minor damage to a small section of asbestos-containing pipe insulation, removal of textured decorative coatings in a way which involves deterioration of the material, e.g. by steam treatment, hydrating gel or scraping off the underlying surface and removal of asbestos cement which is substantially degraded.
Work which falls into this category must be notified via a two page online form. This is the only way notification can be made and it should be done in advance of the work starting. The form will identify the nature and duration of the work and estimated exposure for each worker.
In addition, anyone carrying out NNLW must have a medical examination every three years. This last requirement applies from 30 April 2015 and after that date anyone carrying out NNLW for the first time must have a medical before they start work.
The HSE is keen to make the recordkeeping as painless as possible. The records could be as simple as a copy of the online notification with the names of the workers written on the form, which will already have details of the nature of the job and the type of asbestos likely to be encountered.
HSE does not expect that air sampling will be needed in many cases of NNLW, as the likely levels of exposure will already be known for that type of task. Anything likely to expose workers to significant levels of asbestos will require to be licensed anyway, so if air sampling becomes an issue, this could be an indication that work should be licensed in any case.
Will this help to avoid asbestos exposure for workers in the construction industry? The 2012 regulations require a little more thought from contractors dealing with non-licensed work. If that results in better management of work with asbestos-containing materials, it will be worthwhile.
The online form for NNLW can be found at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/licensing/notifiable-non-licensed-work.htm‘
Gillian Birkby, Partner, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)