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Health & Safety Executive approach to asbestos management examined

9 July 2021

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into how the Health & Safety Executive manages the continued presence of asbestos in buildings.

Despite the importation, supply and use of the material being banned in the UK since 1999, asbestos remains the largest single cause of work-related fatalities, with more than 5,000 deaths each year from diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

The Committee raised concerns last year with the Government about the UK’s policy on managing asbestos in buildings, following the publication of a report by think tank Respublica. In response, the Minister for Employment confirmed that the HSE would be reviewing the effectiveness of the regulations for managing asbestos.

The Committee’s inquiry will examine the current risks posed by asbestos in the workplace, the actions taken by HSE to mitigate them and how its approach compares to those taken in other countries. The results of the inquiry will feed into the executive’s review.

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

“Despite being banned for more than 20 years, the impact of asbestos is still devastating lives. Thousands of people die from asbestos-related illness every year.

With the UK death rate from asbestos-related illness the highest in the world, there are serious concerns about how the material is being dealt with compared with how it is managed in other countries, such as France. The HSE is rightly looking into how asbestos can be handled more safely and the Committee’s inquiry will help to make sure monitoring and regulations are as effective and safe as they can possibly be.”

Terms of reference

The Committee would like to hear views on the following questions. You don’t have to answer all of the questions. You can respond on behalf of an organisation, or as an individual.

  • What are the current risks posed by asbestos in the workplace? Which groups of workers are most at risk?
  • How effective is the current legislative and regulatory framework for the management of asbestos?
  • How does HSE’s approach to managing asbestos compare to the approach taken in other countries? Are there lessons that the UK could learn from best practice elsewhere?
  • How does HSE measure and report its progress in mitigating the risks of asbestos?
  • Does HSE keep adequate records of asbestos in public buildings?
  • Is HSE making best use of available technology and systems to monitor the safety of asbestos which remains in buildings?
  • Does HSE commit adequate resources to asbestos management in line with the level of risk?
  • How robust is the available data about the risks and impact of asbestos in the workplace? What gaps in evidence need to be filled?
  • Is HSE drawing on a wide body of international and national regulatory and industry expertise to inform its approach to the management of asbestos safety in buildings?
  • How effectively does HSE engage with external stakeholders and experts about its approach to the regulation of asbestos?

The deadline for submissions is Friday 17 September.

Further information

Image: Albert Ter Harmsel/flickr/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)