Another law bites the dust
EU rules are forcing a rethink on asbestos regulations, says Claire Gregory, associate at Brabners Chaffe Street
The Health and Safety Executive’s proposed changes to the requirements of working with asbestos will require social landlords to change their systems and procedures.
Most landlords are aware of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and the imposition of liability on them as ‘dutyholder’ for the common parts of domestic buildings (for example halls, stairs, lift shafts and roof spaces). The HSE has recently released a consultation setting out its proposals to introduce revised regulations which will result in greater obligations on dutyholders.
How is the law changing?
In February 2011, the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion that the UK had not fully implemented the EC directive that gave rise to the regulations. The commission found that too many types of lower risk work were being made exempt from the following requirements:
- notification of work;
- medical examinations;
- record keeping.
The UK government has accepted the reasoned opinion and has proposed that the existing Control of Asbestos Regulations will be revoked entirely and a new set of regulations will be issued by April 2012.
The key change is that there will now be three categories of work with asbestos: licensed and non-licensed (as before) and a new category of non-licensed work, known as ‘notifiable non-licensed work’. NNLW will be exempt from the requirements to hold a licence, have arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies, and designate asbestos areas.
However, dutyholders will be required to notify work with asbestos to the relevant enforcing authority before work starts (more types of work will be caught by this). They will also have to carry out medical examinations every three years (although there will be a three-year transition period for this obligation), maintain registers of work (health records), and continue to comply with core requirements of the regulations. This means complying with risk assessment, control of exposure and training requirements.
The consultation estimates that approximately 660,000 workers currently carry out NNLW work.
What is the impact on social landlords?
It is possible that any currently non-licensed routine maintenance work to the common areas of social landlords’ properties may fall within what is to be known as NNLW work and, if so, landlords will have additional notification and record keeping obligations. This means they must also ensure that any appointed contractors are operating in full compliance with the new requirements.
When will the changes come into force?
The consultation suggests new regulations will be implemented on 1 April 2012 - however, interested parties have until 4 November 2011 to respond to the consultation.