151 Rosebery Avenue
17 August 2006
I cannot allow Terry Jago's letter (10 August) to go unchallenged. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has commissioned a great deal of research into the risks from work with textured decorative coatings containing asbestos. This shows that the levels of exposure to asbestos fibres from such work are low.
The Health and Safety Commission has agreed that there should be a risk-based approach to the licensing of asbestos, with licensing reserved for high-risk activities. Further research presented to the Commission on 4 July showed that asbestos fibre levels from both wet and dry removal of textured coatings will be below the new, lower control limit, which means that licensing cannot be justified. Licensing is an administrative requirement: it does not of itself provide safe working standards.
HSE has never said that work with textured coatings is safe. Under current asbestos legislation and with the proposed revisions, all work with asbestos, whether or not it needs to be done by a licensed contractor, requires a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, and has to be carried out by trained workers using proper controls to prevent exposure.
The new Regulations have been the subject of extensive consultation with stakeholders. In reaching its decision to delicence textured coatings, the Commission took into account their responses and acted upon them. The Commission is assured that there will be adequate enforcement of the new regime and has asked HSE to bring any concerns about textured coatings to its attention. The new Regulations significantly tighten the controls on working with asbestos materials and the sooner they are implemented, the sooner worker protection will be strengthened.
Director, Disease Reduction Programme
Health and Safety Executive