Up to 40% of risk managers ‘still don’t know the rules’

A third of building managers and operators who are supposed to manage asbestos risk are not fully aware of the regulations, according to the largest survey of its kind for almost a decade.

The Great British Asbestos in Buildings Survey, backed by the UK Accreditation Service and industry group Asbestos Inspection Bodies, found that up to a fifth of those managing maintenance staff did not ensure that asbestos surveys were in place, despite a requirement for the surveys under current regulations.

The findings come following a significant legal victory for victims of asbestos-related diseases in the Supreme Court last week, which will make it easier to claim compensation from employers deemed to have not properly mitigated the risk to the staff. They also come in advance of the introduction tomorrow of new regulations covering a huge swathe of previously unlicensed low-risk work with asbestos containing materials.

Chris Miller-Hanna, director of specialist asbestos contractor PA Group, one of the contributors to the survey, said the results showed that 30-40% of staff supposed to manage asbestos risk in buildings, still weren’t aware of the rules.

He said: “I don’t want to be scaremongering, but the upshot is there could be people operating in buildings not aware that they’re being exposed to asbestos.

“This week’s legal ruling means that anyone who contracts an asbestos-related disease can now claim against whoever exposed them to it.”

Miller-Hanna said the findings were particularly worrying in the light of the introduction, expected tomorrow, of revised Control of Asbestos Regulations, which will increase contractors’ responsibilities when working with low-risk asbestos containing materials such as Artex.

The regulations, to be enforced by the Health and Safety Executive, mean contractors who don’t notify the HSE in advance in writing of any works with many low-risk asbestos containing materials will be liable to a £5,000 fine.

Click here for a full analysis of what the new regulations will mean