We are launching an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) dedicated to improving asbestos management in UK buildings. This will support the specific aims and objectives of our campaign, Airtight on Asbestos.
Our stated goals are to:
1. Improve recognition of the hazard in schools: by acknowledging that children in schools are at a higher risk and ensuring that schools are up-rated in in the HSE’s risk assessment algorithm.
2. Assure (rather than assume) that all buildings are safe: by identifying higher risk areas and adopting the best technically feasible method for risk assessment (i.e. sensitive air monitoring to bolster the re-inspection regime).
3. Advance phased removal: by prioritising known high risk items for removal.
Currently, the UK’s health and safety standards allow for asbestos to remain undisturbed and left in place. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) believes the risk is ‘negligible’ if asbestos remains undamaged and is not disturbed. But we are seeing a steady rise in the number of asbestos-related deaths among occupations not traditionally associated with asbestos. These include teachers and nurses, as well as pupils who have been exposed to asbestos in schools. We know that teachers are five times and nurses three times more likely to develop mesothelioma, a deadly asbestos related disease.
This APPG will allow our campaign to progress discussions with politicians about the urgent need to bring about much needed reform to the management of asbestos. This would include making sensitive air monitoring for asbestos in public buildings a legal requirement of the Health and Safety Executive bringing UK regulation into line with the best practice of other European nations, as a minimum. We believe that the adoption of this approach will ultimately advance the case for the phased removal of all asbestos from all UK buildings by helping to identify dangers and prioritise risk.