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Research backs asbestos rules


Sir, I cannot allow Terry Jago's letter (August 10) to go unchallenged. The Health and Safety Executive has commissioned a great deal of research into the risks from work with textured decorative coatings containing asbestos.

This shows that the levels of exposure to asbestos fibres f rom such work are low.

The Health and Safety Commission has agreed that there should be a risk-based approach to the licensing of asbestos, with licensing reserved for high-risk activities.

Further research presented to the commission on July 4 showed that asbestos fibre levels from both the wet and dry removal of textured coatings will be below the new, lower control limit, which means that licensing cannot be justified. Licensing is administrative: it does not of itself provide safe working standards.

The HSE has never said that work with textured coatings is safe. Under current asbestos legislation and with the proposed revisions all work with asbestos, whether or not it needs to be done by a licensed contractor, requires a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and has to be carried out by trained workers using proper controls to prevent exposure.

The regulations have been the subject of extensive consultation with stakeholders.

In reaching its decision to de-license textured coatings, the commission took into account their responses and acted upon them.

The commission is assured that there will be adequate enforcement of the new regime and has asked the HSE to bring any concerns about textured coatings to its attention.

The regulations significantly tighten the controls on asbestos materials and the sooner they are implemented, the sooner worker protection will be strengthened.

Steve Coldrick Director, disease reduction programme Health and Safety Executive London SE1