An HSE investigation followed an incident when ceiling tiles containing asbestos were removed during refurbishment work contracted out by AGFP at their factory in Lancashire. HSE found workers had been exposed to asbestos over a three day period. As the work progressed, AGFP managers suspected that the ceiling tiles might contain asbestos but still allowed work to continue in the contaminated area. The contractor was not licensed for asbestos work.
The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 introduced the new duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises. Although the new duty only become law on 21 May 2004, duty-holders had been encouraged to start complying with the new duty from the introduction of the regulations.The aim of regulation 4 is to help protect the largest group who are today at risk of exposure to asbestos, building and maintenance workers, thereby helping to prevent thousands of asbestos-related deaths.
The HSE has been providing guidance to duty holders for some time in advance of today's date including the provision of a webpage providing an outline of the duty.The Control of Asbestos at Work 2002 Regulations in October 2002 introduced the new duty to manage asbestos risk in non-domestic premises. Nick Brown (the then Minister responsible for health and safety), in his speech to the House of Commons during the debate on the Regulations in October 2002, reinforced the Government's support:
At Livingston Sheriff Court West Lothian Council was fined £3000 for breaching health and safety legislation during and in preparation for work on the permanent electrical installation of Uphall Primary School. It was also admonished on two charges, and not guilty of three others.Although the presence of asbestos in tiles elsewhere in the school had been noted, the Council inspection prior to the contract had failed to identify the presence of asbestos on the back of the classroom ceiling tiles, and these had been broken up as work progressed.
Although it is understood that the regulations will be laid before Parliament next week they are not expected to come into force till the end of November 2002 or in the case of Regulation 4(the duty to manage) and Regulation 20 (standards for analysis will not be enforced for a further 18 and 24 months respectively.