Asbestos Laws & the UK Asbestos Regulations
The current set of asbestos laws in the UK is The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. These asbestos regulations came into effect on 06 April 2012 and update the previous set of regulations.
A brief history of Asbestos Regulations in the UK
While asbestos has been used throughout human history, it was the industrial revolution that brought about a huge demand for the fire protective and insulating properties of this naturally occurring mineral.
With this surge in demand there was an increase in exposure and, at the turn of the 20th Century, the first cases of asbestosis disease started to appear. While the asbestos industry would not be regulated until 1931, it was in one piece of legislation, the Factory and Workshop Act 1901, that allowed lawmakers to pass asbestos regulations to cover the main asbestos manufacturing processes.
However, these asbestos regulations did not identify or protect other workers who could routinely be exposed to high levels of asbestos fibres and dust; for example, shipbuilders, laggers and, later, contractors and builders.
The situation, sadly, remained unchanged until an update of the Factories Act in 1961 led to updates in the Asbestos Regulations in 1969. This was the first time that asbestos legislation would put controls on the levels of exposure to asbestos in workplaces.
Continued evidence mounted showing the deadly nature of exposure to asbestos fibres and dust, and although the industry introduced voluntary import bans in the 1970s and early 1980s, it was the Asbestos Prohibition Regulations 1985 that banned or restricted asbestos-containing materials.
Current Requirements of the Asbestos Regulations
The asbestos regulations have been updated and amended many times over that few decades. The current regulations make it quite clear what the rules are regarding licensed and non-licensed work with asbestos, including notification, medical and record-keeping requirements.
Full requirements of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 are available from the HSE.
In general, the asbestos regulations set out a ‘duty to manage’ asbestos and the requirement of employers to protect anyone who is working in or using the premises that may contain asbestos. It is important to note that this could be any workplace built prior to 1999 and that asbestos testing is often required before certain types of building or maintenance works.