Skip to main content

Asbestos

Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by what means it is proposed that health and safety inspectors will measure the level of asbestos fibres in the air to determine whether the control limit specified in the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 has been exceeded; in what circumstances prosecutions will be brought for the offence of contravening the regulations by exceeding the control limit; and if he will make a statement. [98660]

Trained Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) scientific staff carry out measurements of levels of asbestos fibres in the air on the advice of HSE inspectors when they are seeking to establish the effectiveness of new or modified controls or when they wish to confirm controls stated in the contractor's risk assessments are adequate. Measurements are carried out in compliance with the approved and validated method contained in the "Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances" 39/4.Circumstances that might lead to consideration of a prosecution would include inadequate or no controls, unsuitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and airborne fibre levels such that RPE did not reduce the exposure to as low as reasonably practicable and in any event to a level below the control limit.HSE's approach to enforcement of asbestos legislation follows the Health and Safety Commission's principles of enforcement, namely proportionality in applying the law, consistency of approach, targeting of enforcement action and transparency. Where breaches of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 are encountered, appropriate enforcement action is considered, including prosecution.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the circumstances in which a health and safety inspector may rely on his own opinion rather than making scientific measurements in order to establish that the permitted levels of asbestos under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 have been exceeded; and what defences are available to a person where a breach of the regulations is established by the opinion of the inspector rather than by a measurement. [98661]

HSE inspectors are given training and instruction and are provided with guidance and information about the types of situations and incidents, which can give rise to release of asbestos fibres. Many HSE publications provide information on the typical exposure levels likely to be generated by certain activities and which of these will exceed the control limit.Exposure limits and levels are never used in isolation. Inspectors check compliance with the range of controls required by the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 to ensure that the hierarchy of control measures has been applied and that exposure has been reduced to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.In most cases, inspectors will use this information together with their knowledge, rather than arranging for scientific measurements to be taken, to assist in forming an opinion about a risk of serious personal injury and the appropriateness of serving a Prohibition Notice. In cases of doubt, they will often seek a view from a more experienced senior colleague or a specialist inspector.There is a statutory right of appeal to an Employment Tribunal available to the person who, in the opinion of the inspector, has breached the regulations and to whom an enforcement notice has been served.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how a material is defined as containing asbestos for the purposes of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002; what minimum quantity of each relevant mineral is required to be present; and how this minimum quantity is measured; [98662](2) if he will make a statement on the definition of the terms

(a) asbestos, (b) asbestos fibre and (c) asbestos dust in the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002; and what the difference between each of the definitions is. [98663]

Regulation 2(1) of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations defines asbestos as crociodolite, amosite, chrysotile, fibrous actinolite, fibrous anthophyllite and fibrous tremolite. There is no specific definition of either asbestos fibres or asbestos dust within these regulations since the fibres or dust will be one of the six types listed above.There is no minimum quantity required to be present because the application of the regulations is dependant upon the nature of the asbestos-containing material and how likely it is to release asbestos fibres.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on how the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 apply to debris containing asbestos that is found on a site; and what quantities of such debris are acceptable for the purposes of the Regulations. [98664]

Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations requires employers to prevent the exposure of employees to asbestos or where this is not practicable to reduce exposure to asbestos to the lowest level reasonably practicable.In order to do this they are also required to ensure the quantity of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials at the premises where work is undertaken, and the spread of asbestos from any place where work under their control is carried out, are reduced to the lowest level reasonably practicable (Regulations 10 (7) and 15 respectively). Where it is not possible to prevent exposure employers must ensure respiratory or personal protective equipment and other control measures are used to reduce exposure to the lowest possible level.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the Health and Safety Executive's review of the science relating to the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002; and who is in charge of the review. [98678]

The Government have agreed to a review to ensure that dutyholders are adequately preparing for the new duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises, included in the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002, by the end of this year. The review will also take account of any new scientific information and, is being undertaken by Health and Safety Executive officials.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many responses were received to the consultation that took place prior to the making of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002; how many of the responses objected to the making of the regulations in the form in which they were made; what reasons were given for the objections; and if he will place the responses in the Library. [98683]

[holding answer 25 February 2003]: 235 responses were received about the consultation which involved the principle of the duty to manage asbestos in premises, and 268 responses on the two consultations on detailed proposals to amend the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations. The overwhelming majority were in favour of the amendments. There were 10 responses which objected to the proposals.A copy of the responses to the detailed proposals-is available in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what training in the science of asbestos is given to health and safety inspectors (a) generally and (b) for the purposes of enforcing the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002; by whom such training is given; and if he will make a statement. [98684]

[holding answer 25 February 2003]: As part of their training programme, trainee inspectors new to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) attend occupational health tutorials, which include briefing and discussion on the nature and type of asbestos products, the chemical and physical properties of asbestos, exposure levels and the health effects of asbestos. Specialist HSE inspectors normally deliver these tutorials. Asbestos is also covered in the Occupational Health and Safety Diploma course, run by Heriot Watt University, which all trainee inspectors are required to attend.Prior to doing any unaccompanied inspections, HSE inspectors, who have been assigned to asbestos work, undergo specific training on the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. This training is more in depth and is organised and delivered by HSE's Asbestos Licensing Unit, in conjunction with other experienced HSE personnel.