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Health & Safety Executive approach to asbestos management examined

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into how the Health & Safety Executive manages the continued presence of asbestos in buildings.

Despite the importation, supply and use of the material being banned in the UK since 1999, asbestos remains the largest single cause of work-related fatalities, with more than 5,000 deaths each year from diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

The Committee raised concerns last year with the Government about the UK’s policy on managing asbestos in buildings, following the publication of a report by think tank Respublica. In response, the Minister for Employment confirmed that the HSE would be reviewing the effectiveness of the regulations for managing asbestos.

The Committee’s inquiry will examine the current risks posed by asbestos in the workplace, the actions taken by HSE to mitigate them and how its approach compares to those taken in other countries. The results of the inquiry will feed into the executive’s review.

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

“Despite being banned for more than 20 years, the impact of asbestos is still devastating lives. Thousands of people die from asbestos-related illness every year.

With the UK death rate from asbestos-related illness the highest in the world, there are serious concerns about how the material is being dealt with compared with how it is managed in other countries, such as France. The HSE is rightly looking into how asbestos can be handled more safely and the Committee’s inquiry will help to make sure monitoring and regulations are as effective and safe as they can possibly be.”