1 Canada Square
22 December 2005
Dear Mr Wallace
The article in yesterday's Daily Mirror by Kevin Maguire entitled "Stop Deadly Gamble" highlights aspects of the current Health and Safety Commission consultation on changes to the asbestos regulations.
The third paragraph of the article: "Unlicensed contractors will be allowed to handle the deadly insulation material despite fears that it will put workers and the public at risk" is misleading on several counts.
At the Health and Safety Commission and Executive, we take the risks from asbestos very seriously. We would not consult on proposals that we thought would increase the risk of asbestos-related illness. We have come a long way since the uncontrolled practices and high exposures of the past. However, we know that workers in the licensed asbestos sector and the much larger numbers of repair and maintenance workers who may come across asbestos containing materials in the fabric of buildings, remain at risk.
For work with the very highest risk materials, HSE requires contractors to be licensed. Where risks are low, work with other materials containing asbestos has never been restricted to licensed contractors. But - whether or not work with asbestos has to be done under licence - the regulations will still require this to be properly assessed, and carried out by trained workers with the appropriate controls.
The purpose of asbestos licensing is to provide a check on firms' competence to undertake high-risk work in this area: it should not be confused with separate requirements to control the work with asbestos.
Director Policy Programmes
Health and Safety Executive
9SW, Rose Court