Published by the HSE in March 2017, the Post Implementation Review (PIR) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012) is available for public review here. It’s a 90 page report aimed at 1) determining if CAR 2012 is meeting its objectives; 2) whether those objectives are still valid; 3) whether the regulations are still required and, if so, 4) can they be improved. The report was generated with input from Dutyholders.
Whether you’re a professional dealing with asbestos in your work life or a member of the public using non-residential buildings built in the last century (remember 86% of our schools in the UK still contain asbestos), I would encourage you to read the report or, at a minimum, read the following commentary and recommendations.
Before continuing, it’s important to recognize what CAR 2012 does and does not regulate.
It’s focus is on regulating work in buildings that will disturb, or potentially disturb, asbestos in that building, thereby, eliminating the workers’ risk from asbestos exposure. Further, if work is to be carried out in any building built in the last century that will disturb the fabric of that building, a professional survey must first have been carried out to ascertain whether or not asbestos is present in that building.
Although CAR 2012 does require the dutyholder of any public building built prior to 2000 to make an assessment (survey for) the presence of asbestos, it does not (and probably cannot) regulate day-to-day activities in these buildings, even when asbestos is known to be present. This is an important distinction.
Back to the PIR.
With a 30-50 year gestation period for mesothelioma, of course the HSE can’t claim (yet) that the regulations have saved lives but they do know that “they have been very influential in controlling exposures”. In answer to the first 3 points above, the PIR provides a resounding “yes” and goes further in stating that government intervention is an ongoing requirement. At Banyard Solutions we are supportive of the regulations in place and welcome the government’s continued intervention. Indeed, e-permits has been developed to implement CAR 2012 procedures and ensure compliance.
The major recommendation for improvement of the regulations centres on the need for greater clarity around the distinction between licensable, non-licensable and notifiable non-licensable work and the attendant requirements for health records and medical surveillance. Again, we are supportive of further clarification and will implement any required changes in e-permits.
Nobody in the HSE is complacent about asbestos but are we, as a country, doing enough? After all, the PIR highlights the latest data on mesothelioma mortality rates from the WHO and guess who is top of the league?
The PIR postulates that this could be to do with the higher usage of amosite asbestos in Great Britain than other countries during the 50s and 60s. Or, was there more we could have done at that time? Is there more we can do today? We think so.
Our concern is around exposure to asbestos from those using buildings (containing asbestos) in their normal day-to-day activities. The 86% of schools that still contain asbestos today, our libraries, shops, council offices, any building built before the use of asbestos was abolished in 1999. Over 140 teachers have died in the past 10 years from mesothelioma and this figure excludes caretakers, cleaners, and admin staff, not to mention the damage being done to our kids.
The PIR acknowledges that there are ‘unexplained’ cases of mesothelioma, particularly among women, that “although not attributable to handling asbestos at work was nevertheless caused by asbestos”. The HSE estimate 50-100 female deaths per annum to this background incidence of mesothelioma. There were 414 female mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2014 (out of a total of just over 2,500). The HSE stats suggest that 75-90% of the total female deaths are due to handling/disturbing asbestos at work, with the balance ‘unexplained’ (from day-to-day activities).
Our recent post on Asbestos in Schools – The Hidden Threat highlighted how ordinary day-to-day activities can disturb asbestos and expose kids, teachers, caretakers and admin staff to these deals fibres. This is the same in our libraries, council offices etc.
Removing asbestos from every building is extremely expensive and disruptive and it is, unfortunately, more practical to deal with the asbestos on demolition of the building. Accepting, therefore, that removing asbestos from every building is not going to happen, but that day-to-day activities are killing people, what more can be done?
While CAR 2012 does stipulate that the dutyholders for pre-2000 public buildings carry out an assessment (survey for) the presence of asbestos, how many actually have done? How many then communicate to the caretakers and facilities managers in those buildings? Or to the headteachers in schools? Not enough. According to the first government survey on asbestos in schools (published earlier this year), only 44% of caretakers, 26% of facilities managers and 44% of headteachers had been made aware of the presence of asbestos in their school. This is shockingly low but nowhere near as lamentable as the comment on whether parents should be made aware of the presence of asbestos in the schools they send their kids to. As reported in the Schools Week article: Parents do not need to be informed of asbestos, added the [government] report, since health and safety legislation “does not require schools to inform parents about the presence of asbestos in their children’s school.”
e-permits strengthens the implementation of CAR 2012 providing a workflow based system that, i) holds the Asbestos Register, ii) points out that asbestos is present where they plan to work, iii) asks whether they will disturb the fabric of the building, and guides them through what is required (based on the type of work, licensed etc.) e.g. notification number and then, vitally, iv) checks that they have the right licence, training, medical checks, facefit checks etc. and only allows appropriate people to do the work.
You can access our webinar Preventing Asbestos Exposure and Ensuring CAR 2012 Compliance here which includes a demonstration of e-permits in action or, if you would prefer a personal walk-through tailored to your business and requirements then please use the Demo form in the left hand column.If You Like This Post, Please Share It!