It is often reported that premises owners and building / demolition firms fail to observe the legal requirements of The Control of Asbestos Regulations when carrying out renovations and the removal of waste materials, which can expose themselves and others to construction materials made from asbestos fibres.

On the 6th April, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 came into force, which updates previous asbestos regulations by fully implementing EU Directive 2009/148/EC, aimed principally at companies involved in non-licensed asbestos work.

Despite continuing efforts by the Health And Safety Executive (HSE), far too many firms appear to either have little or no asbestos awareness of the potential health risks or simply ignore the safety procedures to minimise time and costs to themselves and the premises owners.

According to the the HSE, there are an estimated four million properties around the UK still containing asbestos, often found in a friable ( fragile and disintegrating) condition. Any attempt to handle asbestos can result in fibres being released into the air and inhaled.

Once the fibres are ingested they embed in the lung linings and can eventually cause asbestosis disease or the fatal incurable tumours of mesothelioma cancer.

A long gestation period of up 50 years is known to elapse before the first asbestosis symptoms appear, by which time, the disease may have spread to adjacent tisses or organs. Survival after a conformed diagnosis is around 6 months or less.

It is often overlooked that while the most dangerous forms of asbestos were banned from use by the building industry in 1985, white chrysotile asbestos fibres were still used in the production of many types of insulation materials, such as wallboards, textured and spray surface coatings and cement roofing. Although chrysotile imports were finally banned in 1999, it was not until 2005 that a final ban was enforced.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 introduces changes to “Non-Licensable” work on asbestos, which affects nearly all of the work carried out on asbestos around the UK, or around three quarters of a million workers. As of April 6th, the “Non-Licensable” category of asbestos work will be divided into two and a third category, to be known as “Notifiable Non-Licensable Work” (NNLW), will be added.

Under the requirements of the NNLW, the HSE requires “ brief written records should be kept of non-licensed work, which has to be notified, e.g. copy of the notification with a list of workers on the job, plus the level of likely exposure of those workers to asbestos”.

By April 2015, each and every worker who is exposed to asbestos must be under medical “surveillance”every three years. The employer must maintain a register for each worker, which records the type and duration of work carried out with asbestos and is to be retained for at least 40 years along with copies of all medical reports.

The HSE state that “ Workers who are already under health surveillance for licensed work need not have another medical examination for non-licensed work but medicals for notifiable non-licensed work are not acceptable for those doing licensed work”.

With more than 1.8 million people annually exposed each year to asbestos and at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed annually, the new Regulations are an attempt to reduce disregard for health and safety on property renovations when there is still a potential hazard from exposure to asbestos.