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Where is the Full Asbestos Strategy?

22 August 2022 | Updated 24 August 2022

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), a leading scientific charity and the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, together with the Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM), has called upon future Prime Ministerial candidates to commit to a proper national plan on asbestos. 

This follows HSE statistics released this month – Asbestosis, mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer and non-malignant pleural disease in Great Britain 2022 – showing an increase in asbestos deaths to over 5,000 each year.

Lack of Comprehensive Action


The Society is critical of the Government’s non-committal response to Parliamentary Inquiry recommendations, published earlier this year. Parliament called on Whitehall to join up its thinking and collect better data to protect nurses, teachers and those in social housing who are at increasing risk of exposure to asbestos as building stock degrades.

“The Government's response dodges the main issues coming out of the Inquiry. It needs to have a proper joined up strategy using research, tax incentives, communication, building control, the conveyancing system, technology, and the opportunities arising from the greening of buildings. Instead, the government's plan is to use a handful of inspectors, a bit of social media and wishful thinking to move things on,” says Jonathan Grant, Registrar of the Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management.

“We are pleased that there are indications that the Government thinks it might be a good idea for people surveying for a cancer-causing toxin like asbestos, should now have some level of competence and accreditation. It’s also progress that they appreciate the need to ensure that the contractors who check to see that asbestos is being removed from properties properly, should not be on the same contractor’s payroll.”

As for safeguarding from already identified hotspots, Asbestos SMART is a simple, easy to use technological solution which gives visiting contractors and key on site personnel immediate access to the latest asbestos register for your building, just by using their mobile phone or smart mobile device.

Every UKNAR registered building enrolled into the Asbestos SMART system is issued with a unique QR code. The QR code presented can be incorporated into a sign. This can be tailored to your organisation’s individual requirements, including your logo and contact details.


The Real Risks


Asbestos-related cancers cost the public purse hundreds of millions in health and social care costs and in benefits, as well as even more in compensation claims. Evidence presented to the Inquiry indicate that teachers and healthcare workers are at greater risk than most other workers of being exposed to harmful levels of asbestos. For example, SOCOTEC highlighted the risk of asbestos exposure in UK schools – one of the main issues with regards to asbestos exposure in schools is that many of the buildings in use in the UK were constructed before the year 2000. According to documents leaked to The Observer newspaper earlier this year, deteriorating school buildings in England are a “risk to life.”

The Society is particularly concerned about asbestos in the social housing stock. BOHS points out that the extent of asbestos in social housing, combined with the challenges of managing homes means that people living in Housing Association and Council accommodation could soon be adding to a new wave of asbestos diseases.

“HSE is the only game in town when it comes to enforcement and standards for asbestos. However, they do not deal with asbestos within social housing. If the new incumbent of number 10 is serious about levelling up, they need to be addressing asbestos, the poison in the attic of many ex-council houses,” says Professor Kevin Bampton, CEO of BOHS.

If the proposed policy of extending the right to buy further into social housing continues, the Society warns that there needs to be a more robust regime for ensuring that a house is not an asbestos time-bomb.

“In its Response, the Government says it is listening to professional bodies like us, but they clearly have not read the evidence given to Parliament, the Select Committee Report or its own statistics on asbestos deaths. The new PM needs to show leadership on asbestos, which is a national problem from the humblest of Council houses through to the Palace of Westminster itself.”


Picture: a planning meeting. Image credit: Unsplash.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 22 August 2022


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