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The Independent, 'The killers in pin-striped suits' - Steve Coldrick responds

Mr Danny Groom
The Independent
191 Marsh Wall
E14 9RS

29 December 2005

Dear Sir

I would like to correct Johann Hari's assertion yesterday (The killers in pin-striped suits), that the "government is about to beat back regulations protecting us from a deadly poison" because "from next month, unlicensed contractors will be allowed to handle textured wall and asbestos ceiling coatings."

The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) is currently consulting on changes to the asbestos regulations. This consultation ends on 31 January 2006, after which HSC will take account of the views of consultees before making recommendations for revising the regulations.

We continue to take the risks from asbestos very seriously. The proposals in the consultation document will further strengthen current regulatory protection; they include, for example, a new, tighter exposure limit for work with all types of asbestos and detailed regulatory requirements for training all workers potentially exposed to asbestos.

Recent reviews and research suggest that the levels of exposure to asbestos from work with textured coatings are low compared to other types of licensed asbestos-containing materials. Hence HSC's proposals to remove textured coatings from the licensing regime, which should remain focussed on high-risk materials and work.

Work with asbestos containing textured-coatings still needs proper control measures. All work with asbestos, whether licenced or not, must be carried out by competent workers with the appropriate controls.

Yours faithfully

Steve Coldrick

Director, Disease Reduction Programme
Health and Safety Executive

Updated 2013-01-23