Parliamentary Committee Launches Inquiry to Test Opinion on HSE’s Management of Asbestos in Public Buildings and Workplaces

Before 17 September 2021, the Work and Pensions Committee would like to hear views in response to the following 10 questions regarding the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) management of the continued presence of asbestos in buildings:

  1. What are the current risks posed by asbestos in the workplace? Which groups of workers are most at risk?
  2. How effective is the current legislative and regulatory framework for the management of asbestos?
  3. How does HSE’s approach to managing asbestos compare to the approach taken in other countries? Are there lessons that the UK could learn from best practice elsewhere?
  4. How does HSE measure and report its progress in mitigating the risks of asbestos?
  5. Does HSE keep adequate records of asbestos in public buildings?
  6. Is HSE making best use of available technology and systems to monitor the safety of asbestos which remains in buildings?
  7. Does HSE commit adequate resources to asbestos management in line with the level of risk?
  8. How robust is the available data about the risks and impact of asbestos in the workplace? What gaps in evidence need to be filled?
  9. Is HSE drawing on a wide body of international and national regulatory and industry expertise to inform its approach to the management of asbestos safety in buildings?
  10. How effectively does HSE engage with external stakeholders and experts about its approach to the regulation of asbestos?[i]

In edition 299 of BC Disease News (here), we examined a ResPublica report (dated November 2019), entitled: ‘DON’T BREATHE IN: BRIDGING THE ASBESTOS SAFETY GAP – A review of research, policy and practice’. Among other demands, the think tank called for the UK Government to commission a cost-benefit analysis and timeline for the ‘phased removal’ of all asbestos from public buildings in the UK, as well as a comprehensive study to establish an accurate measurement of ambient asbestos fibres in schools and hospitals.

On the back of this report, the Committee raised concerns with the Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP, who confirmed HSE’s statutory Post Implementation Review (PIR) of the current version of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 would ‘provide an opportunity for ResPublica to contribute as a stakeholder engaged in this work’ – read the chain of correspondence, here.

It is hoped that by commencing an inquiry into ‘the current risks posed by asbestos in the workplace, the actions taken by HSE to mitigate them and how its approach compares to those taken in other countries’, the Committee will obtain feedback that influences the PIR.

These hopes have been epitomised by Committee Chair, the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, who recently stated that:

‘With the UK death rate from asbestos-related illness the highest in the world, there are serious concerns about how the material is being dealt with compared with how it is managed in other countries, such as France. The HSE is rightly looking into how asbestos can be handled more safely and the Committee’s inquiry will help to make sure monitoring and regulations are as effective and safe as they can possibly be’.

To answer any number of questions as part of the inquiry, either behalf of an organisation, or in an individual capacity, complete your submissions by the cut-off date via this link.

 

[i] ‘Health & Safety Executive approach to asbestos management examined’ (9 July 2021 UK Parliament) <https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/164/work-and-pensions-committee/news/156457/health-safety-executive-approach-to-asbestos-management-examined/> accessed 10 September 2021.