The HSE does not assume that any minimum threshold exists for exposure to
asbestos below which a person is at zero risk of developing mesothelioma,
since they consider that it cannot currently be quantified for practical
purposes; they cite evidence from epidemiological studies of asbestos
exposed groups to argue that even if any such threshold for mesothelioma
does exist, it must be at a very low level.
Previously it was possible to claim compensation for pleural plaques
caused by negligent exposure to asbestos, on the grounds that although it
is in itself asymptomatic, it is linked to development of diffuse pleural
thickening, which causes lung impairment. It has been highly contentious,
however, as to the probability of pleural plaques developing into pleural
thickening or other asbestos related illnesses. On October 17, 2007 this
point was clarified by the Law Lords? ruling that workers who have pleural
plaques as a result of asbestos exposure will no longer be able to seek
compensation as it does not in itself constitute a disease. This
ruling was however superseded, so far as sufferers of pleural plaques in
Scotland are concerned, by the passing of the Damages (Asbestos-related
Conditions)(Scotland) Act 2009, which provides that in Scots law pleural
plaques are to be considered an actionable type of personal injury.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations were introduced in the UK in November
2006 and are an amalgamation of three previous sets of legislation
(Asbestos Prohibition, Asbestos Licensing and the Control of Asbestos at
Work Regulations) aimed at minimising the use and disturbance of asbestos
containing materials within British workplaces. Essentially this
legislation bans the import and use of most asbestos products and sets out
guidelines on how best to manage those currently in-situ.
Dutyholders of all non-domestic properties within the UK must establish an
asbestos register and a management plan. The definition of "non-domestic"
is "a property or structure (commercial, domestic or residential) where
work is carried out" the obligation of the duty holder is that such
operatives are not exposed to any asbestos based materials during the
course of the work, the Asbestos Register states the presence or non
presence of asbestos related to the inside and outside of the structure.
The exception is where the property age (post-1999 when chrysotile
asbestos was banned) would indicate that such products will not have been
used during the construction of the building.
The removal of high-risk asbestos products from non-domestic properties is
tightly controlled by the HSE and high-risk products such as thermal
insulation must be removed under controlled conditions by licensed
contractors. Further guidance on which products this applies to can be
found on the HSE website along with a list of licensees.
The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations were amended and came into
force on 6 April 2012 to take account of the European Commission's view
that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to
asbestos (Directive 2009/148/EC). These changes were relatively minor and
included additional requirements for non-licensed asbestos work. These
changes mean that some non-licenced asbestos work now requires
notification, and has additional requirements for managing this work e.g.
record keeping and health surveillance.