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Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002

The duty to manage the risk from asbestos in non-domestic premises came into force today May 2004 compliance with the requirements of this significant new regulation will take time.

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:

"If current levels of exposure to asbestos are allowed to continue over the next 50 years, nearly 5,000 additional people will be exposed to asbestos fibres and will die from asbestos related diseases. These Regulations should go a long way towards preventing human suffering and misery, and they deserve the full support of the House."

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used for about 150 years on a large commercial scale. While it was seen as a versatile material for fire proofing and insulation material, its deadly nature has also been known for many years.

It is now illegal to use asbestos in the construction or refurbishment of any premises however thousands of tonnes of it were used in the past and much of it is still in place. When disturbed or damaged, it can become a danger to health, because asbestos fibres are released into the air and people can breathe them in.Anyone who disturbs asbestos that has deteriorated or been damaged and releases fibres, can be at risk. In fact, anyone whose work involves drilling, sawing or cutting into the fabric of premises could potentially be at risk. They may breathe in asbestos fibres during their day-to-day work.

At least 3500 people in Great Britain die each year from mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer as a result of past exposure to asbestos. Annual numbers of deaths are predicted to go on rising into the next decade. It can take anywhere from 15 to 60 years after first exposure before the development of these fatal diseases.

SI Number SI 2002/2675Came into force 21 November 2002 except for regulation 4 (which come into force today) and regulation 20 (21 November 2004) Implementing Council Directive: 90/394/EEC on the protection of health and safety at work insofar as it relates to asbestos + Council Directive: 98/24/EC on the protection of the health and safety of workers from risks related to chemical agents at work (Chemical Agents Directive)

The Regulations revoke, consolidate and re-enact with modifications the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987, as amended.

In addition, the new Regulations:

  • introduce a new regulation to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises
  • incorporate the requirements of the Chemical Agents Directive
  • introduce a requirement for accreditation of laboratories that analyse materials to identify asbestos
  • amend the Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1998 in order to clarify the enforcing authority where an area has been segregated to prevent the spread of asbestos.
The following ACOPs and guidance have been issued as a support to the new Regulations:
  • L27 Work with Asbestos that does not usually Require a Licence (4th edition)
  • L28 Work with Asbestos Insulation, Asbestos Coating and Asbestos Insulating Board (4th edition)
  • L127 The Management of Asbestos in Non-domestic Premises
  •  HSG 227 A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Asbestos
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