Asbestos – why confuse NNLW with new Regulations?


The Health & Safety Executive’s Communities, for health and safety consultants and other professionals in the safety industry, include a very enlightening Construction Forum.

One of its most interesting current debates concerns the introduction of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. This creates a new set of requirements for Notifiable Non-Licensed Work (NNLW).

The proposition that has been made is that this is an unwelcome set of new regulations. In an age where we are gradually lessening the amount of this deadly material and we have a good, fit-for-purpose system of licensing contractors, screening and training, most normal building contractors steer well clear of asbestos and have no intention of handling the stuff.

The new set of NNLW rules is said to be complex, and the definition of what is notifiable is ill-defined. One writer challenges anyone to try to put it into a Health & Safety Manual in an understandable way (if it fails this test, then surely it is bad law?)

New Legislation – why?

It seems that in practice the work that is now brought into the legislative net is all being done by registered contractors – so why not simply extend the definitions within the perfectly serviceable 2006 Regulations?

The answer, supplied by the HSE’s announcement when introducing the 2012 NNLW requirements, is that the EU pushed them into it on the grounds thatBritain’s laws fell short of the EU Directive on asbestos exposure.  But that does not explain why HSE felt it necessary to go to the trouble and expense of creating new legislation instead of tweaking the existing rules.

The professionals who have gone into print on this forum argue that you could simply license any other kinds of work that need to go into the 2006 Regulations. It’s all being done by licensed asbestos contractors anyway.

What, they ask, is the problem that is being addressed here? Have any specific cases of unlicensed operator activity surfaced? HSE are normally not backward at naming and shaming yet we have been given no justification of this kind. Given that this debate is taking place within their portals, it is to be hoped that they will respond to these good questions.

For lest we forget, this is the year in which Professor Lofstedt’s report is supposed to be enacted, with considerable Government clout behind it, so that the authorities take a machete to the forest of health and safety legislation. This is not a time to be introducing any new paperwork – quite the reverse. HSE: the ball is in your court…