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New asbestos regulations, same lack of awareness

An updated version of The Control of Asbestos Regulations came into force last month, but judging by an awareness survey, there is still widespread ignorance about the deadly substance.


The new regulations coincide with the publication of the Great British Asbestos Survey (see below), which demonstrates an alarming lack of awareness of their legal responsibilities among both duty holders - those who own or operate buildings which contain asbestos - and companies/contractors whose employees may be exposed to the material.

CAR 2012 has widened statutory obligations for contractors, tenants and property owners, as Laura Phoenix, an associate and asbestos specialist at law firm Thomas Eggar, explains.

Besides the practical implications, there is now the additional threat of a victim, their dependants or the victim's estate being entitled to bring a separate civil claim for damages against any employer that negligently exposed the victim to asbestos. "The damages awarded can reach £80,000 per case for pain and suffering alone," observes Phoenix.

Contractors should also be aware of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, in the Employers' Liability Insurance "Trigger" Litigation. "It held that mesothelioma is 'sustained' or 'contracted' at the moment when the employee is wrongfully exposed to asbestos," she says. "This means that an insurer's liability will be triggered as long as the employer's liability policy was in place at the date of asbestos inhalation, even if an asbestos-related illness manifests itself decade years later.

"Contractors are advised that this ruling could substantially increase insurance premiums, and some policies may not cover asbestos claims at all."

The Great British Asbestos Survey

The survey of built environment professionals carried out in 2011 provides a snapshot of awareness levels about asbestos management rules. Notable findings were:

- 35% of contractors say they have disturbed asbestos during their work.

- 32% of duty holders not aware of their 'duty to manage' asbestos, which has existed since 2004.

- 37% of duty holders do not have an asbestos management plan in place.

- 25% of surveys are not completed in line with guidance.

- 17% of contractors do not request asbestos information from clients..

- 40% of contractors say they do not receive asbestos information from commercial clients.

- 60% of contractors say they do not receive asbestos information from residential clients.

- 25% of respondents had received no asbestos awareness training.

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