ASBESTOS contractors have attacked research by safety chiefs in the run-up to a controversial decision to allow non-licensed f irms to remove textu red coat ings.
A war of words has broken out between the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association and the Health & Safety Executive.
The Government is due to rubber-stamp plans this month to delicense the removal of textured coatings such as Artex, following advice from the HSE.
But Arca leaders are incensed about the move and claim the research is flawed.
HSE director of disease reduction Steve Coldrick said: 'We have commissioned a great deal of research into the risks from work with textured coatings containing asbestos. This shows the levels of exposure to asbestos f ibres f rom such work are low.
But Arca chief executive Terry Jago said: 'In the HSE's consultative document research was carried out on just 35 sites, of which only five involved the actual removal of the textured coatings as against the whole substrate.'
Mr Jago believes delicensing removal work will 'take the industry back 20 years'.
He said: 'We have the support of more than 100 MPs in an early day motion opposing this, but it would take a massive U-turn by the Government to stop it happening.
'We have trained our operatives since 1983 in how to control asbestos and that level of expertise just doesn't exist in the rest of the industry. We do not believe general builders will train staff properly when it comes to removing textured coatings.'
The row over deregulation continued as the HSE launched an asbestos campaign last week aimed at maintenance workers.
More than half a million non-domestic premises and houses still contain some form of asbestos, which poses a threat to builders who unknowingly drill or cut into the material.
Mr Coldrick said: 'There are around 1.8 million maintenance workers in Great Britain, many of whom don't realise that asbestos could be present and therefore pose a threat.
'We need to make today's workers aware that they are at risk.'