HSE Drops Plans to Reduce Frequency of Medical Checks for Licensed Asbestos Workers
- Date: Thursday 8th February 2018
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The HSE has scrapped a plan to align medical checks for workers dealing with licensed and non-licensed work for asbestos at every three years after the idea was rejected by 61% of respondents to last October’s consultation.
The proposal which would have meant amending the Control of Asbestos (CAR) 2012 Regulations, was seen by unions and others as reducing the protection offered by the current system, under which licensed workers’ health is checked every two years. But the HSE had argued that the current well-functioning regulatory system is protecting workers’ health, so less frequent checks would not result in more cases of asbestosis developing.
The proposal, originally floated in the post-implementation review of CAR 2012, was also based on fears that running both three-yearly and two-yearly checking regimes for workers was creating a cost burden for asbestos removal contractors.
Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, said: “Asbestos is a silent killer of thousands of workers every year. Frequent medical checks for those engaged in the dangerous removal of asbestos from old buildings is vital to pick up any symptoms as early as possible. We welcome the HSE seeing sense on this issue.”
Hugh Robertson, health and safety policy officer at the TUC, told Health and Safety at Work: "I am pleased that the HSE has listened to the strong concerns expressed by many in the consultation. What we need is stronger, better enforced, regulations aimed at getting rid of asbestos once and for all, not reductions in regulation."
In a statement to Health and Safety at Work, the HSE said: “The HSE values the opinions of its stakeholders and in light of the responses we’ve received on this consultation, has decided not to proceed with the proposed amendment at this time.
“Licensed workers will continue to be examined by an HSE-appointed doctor every two years and those undertaking notifiable non-licensed work will continue to be examined every three years.
“The proposed amendment would have had no negative impacts on workers’ health or altered the prognosis of those whose previous exposures may have resulted in asbestos-related disease.
“CAR 2012 puts in place a robust regulatory framework of management through risk assessment and control of exposure to asbestos in the workplace; it is and will continue to be a key plank in preventing asbestos-related disease.”
The proposed change had won some support in the construction sector. In a press release timed to coincide with last year’s consultation, Margaret Grahamslaw, head of occupational health and wellbeing at B&CE, said that three-yearly medicals would be a good fit with many health assessment programmes, and the plan would also reduce confusion. She also said that the long latency period of asbestos-related disease meant that switching from two years to three would make little practical difference to health outcomes.
But Simon Olliff, managing director of Banyard Solutions, previously said: “We should be progressive in our approaches to improving worker health and exposures, and prolonging worker checks is not the way to achieve this.”
Source: Health and Safety at Work