Most employers are still doing nothing to stem the risks of asbestos in the workplace, despite the risk of heavy fines and compensation claims and thousands of deaths each year attributed to asbestos-related diseases, according to new research.
Regulation four of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAWR) 2002 requires businesses to exercise a "duty of care" with regard to asbestos, and have plans in place to identify, assess and manage the risk of it on their premises. They should also inform third parties such as contractors and remove it if necessary.
CAWR defines the "duty holder" as anyone who is responsible for the maintenance or repair of the premises, which, in the case of leasehold or tenanted properties, may well be the manager or operator.
If any more compunction were needed to encourage operators to take the issue seriously, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) advises that asbestos-related diseases kill 3,000 people a year in the UK, yet many operators continue to ignore the problem. A cross-sector survey of 500 companies by UK & Ireland Insurance Services, which helps clients carry out asbestos audits, found that 83% of the 500 companies surveyed had no plans in place to deal with asbestos in the workplace.
"Ignorance is no excuse," says UK & Ireland Insurance Services' Martin Nugent. "Employers already have a legal duty to prevent exposure of employees to asbestos material on their premises. It's crucial that employers have practical solutions to manage asbestos risk, enabling them to comply with legislation, safegaurd employees and protect their business. These figures are alarming. Getting to grips with this issue should be a major priority for many UK businesses."
Nugent offers operators the following advice:
Find out where, if any, asbestos is located, how much there is, and what condition it's in.
Keep an up-to-date record of this information in an asbestos register.
Presume that any materials identified contain asbestos unless strong evidence proves otherwise.
Notify all parties likely to be exposed to asbestos-related risk.
Prepare, implement and periodically review a plan to manage asbestos in the premises.
For more information on CAWR compliance, go to www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos