New asbestos regs will increase costs to contractors, says ECA

New asbestos regs will increase costs to contractors, says ECA

New asbestos legislation will undoubtedly lead to extra costs for many employers in the electrical contracting industry, says Paul Reeve, head of health & safety and environment at the ECA.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at the start of April, place more intensive requirements on maintenance contractors. Under the new regulations, contractors must notify the relevant authorities if they are doing certain types of non-licensed work involving asbestos, and keep a brief written log of the work. In addition, all employees who could come into contact with asbestos will need to be put under health surveillance. The tighter regulations are a response to the European Commission’s view that the UK had not fully implemented EU Directive 2009/148/EC on controlling workers’ exposure to asbestos.

Reeve says, ‘The HSE has put considerable thought into limiting the financial impact of the changes, but the new regulations will still require thousands of maintenance contractors to provide three-yearly respiratory health assessments for tens of thousands of their operatives. This could lead to a significant increase in costs.’

He continues, ‘A major practical problem is that contractors can’t predict if an employee will actually do any ‘notifiable non-licensed work’. However, they will need regular health assessments, just in case they are required for this type of project. The extra cost will also widen the gulf between responsible small contractors and ‘cowboys’, who will take their chances and not carry out health surveillance.

‘The ECA hopes to work with the HSE on delivering the most cost effective routes to health surveillance. We fully understand that this is about work involving asbestos, and that is a very serious business. However, we would welcome an authoritative explanation of the employee health benefits, as well as any business benefits, of the newly required surveillance. This will help employers understand why it is required, and help to achieve active support from the industry,’ concludes Reeve.

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