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Preventing exposure: the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (CAWR) comes fully into force on May 21st 2004 when Regulation 4 of CAWR creates a new legal duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises.

The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (CAWR) introduced an explicit duty to manage asbestos in nondomestic premises, and aims to tackle the biggest occupational health killer in the UK--asbestos-related disease.

If you own, occupy, manage or have responsibilities for non-domestic premises, which may contain asbestos you will either have a legal duty to manage the risk from this material or a duty to co-operate with whoever manages that risk.

The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 comes fully into force on May 21st 2004 when Regulation 4 of CAWR creates a new legal duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises. Owners, occupiers and those responsible for the management of non-domestic property that may contain asbestos-containing material have a legal responsibility to manage the risk of asbestos containing materials, or to cooperate with those responsible for managing the risk.

The long lead-in period for the duty to manage--18 months--was designed to allow the possible 500,000 non-domestic premises in the UK that could contain asbestos materials time to assess the risks from those materials and putting in place systems to manage that risk.

Of the 3500 people currently dying each year from asbestos-related diseases 25% have once worked in the building and maintenance trades and often would have worked unknowingly on or near to asbestos containing materials (ACMs). While virtually all other activities involving potential exposure to asbestos have now ceased, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that evidence suggests that this vulnerable group is still at considerable risk from unknowing exposure to asbestos.

The requirements of the new duty seek to prevent further unknowing exposure to asbestos by building and maintenance workers with the aim of saving 5000 lives over the next 50 years.

Duty requirements

The duty to manage requires those in control of premises to:

* Take reasonable steps to determine the location and condition of materials likely to contain asbestos;

* Presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not;

* Make and keep an up to date record of the location and condition of the ACMs or presumed ACMs in the premises;

* Assess the risk of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from these materials;

* Prepare a plan setting out how the risks from the materials are to be managed;

* Take the necessary steps to put the plan into action;

* Review and monitor the plan periodically; and

* Provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

Anyone who has information on the whereabouts of asbestos in your premises is required to make this available to you as the dutyholder. Those who are not dutyholders, but control access to the premises, must co-operate with you in managing the asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used for about 150 years on a large commercial scale. It is versatile, plentiful and ideal as a fire proofing and insulation material. Unfortunately it can also be deadly.

Although it is now illegal to use asbestos in the construction or refurbishment of any premises, many thousands of tonnes of it were used in the past and much of it is still in place. As long as the asbestos is in good condition and is not being or going to be disturbed or damaged there is no risk. But if it is disturbed or damaged, it can become a danger to health, because asbestos fibres are released into the air and people can breathe them in.

Anyone who uses your premises, who disturbs asbestos that has deteriorated or been damaged and releases fibres, can be at risk. In fact, anyone whose work involves drilling, sawing or cutting into the fabric of premises could potentially be at risk. They may breathe in asbestos fibres during their day-to-day work.

At least 3500 people in Great Britain die each year from mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer as a result of past exposure to asbestos. Annual numbers of deaths are predicted to go on rising into the next decade. But those dying during that period will have already inhaled a fatal dose of asbestos fibres. It can take anywhere from 15 to 60 years after first exposure before the development of these fatal diseases, and these deaths arise from exposures many years ago when asbestos was less well controlled, and was in much wider use than today.

The HSE has published updated statistics predicting the future numbers of people likely to die in Britain as a result of mesothelioma.

These statistics, put together using the latest modelling techniques, suggest the annual number of deaths will peak at a lower level than previously predicted (published in 1995), and will peak sooner. The number of mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain (males and females of all ages) is now predicted to peak somewhere between 1950 and 2450 annually. The peak is expected between the years 2011 and 2015.

Finally it is worth remembering, the responsibility for complying with the new duty to manage the potential risk remains yours.
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Publication:Plant & Works Engineering
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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