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March 6, 2023

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Asbestos management in the rail sector

SHP hears from SOCOTEC UK, who discusses asbestos, its risk management in the rail sector and why it remains a threat to health and safety today.

AsbestosAsbestos management in the UK remains a pressing issue as it continues to pose a significant threat to the general public, with an average of 5,500 people a year dying of asbestos-related disease. Despite the ban on the importation supply, and use of asbestos in 1999, vast quantities of asbestos remain present inside public and private buildings and its management continues to challenge the rail sector. This is due to the age of some of the depots, stations and other associated buildings/structures on the railway infrastructure.

Asbestos Legislation

The Control of Asbestos Regulations introduced in 2012 contain requirements for work with asbestos, as well as information on the notification of work, designating areas where work is carried out on asbestos, medical surveillance, record keeping and ongoing awareness training. However, a report by think tank ResPublica in November 2019 highlighted the UK’s gaps in asbestos risk management legislation compared to its European counterparts, prompting the UK government to launch an inquiry into the HSE’s approach to asbestos management in the UK.

ATac and NORAC Report

More recently, both ATac and NORAC joined forces to collate and rationalise data that had been collected by their members between October 2021 and March 2022. Over one million lines of data were analysed, and the resulting report ‘The First Annual Data Analysis Report into Asbestos in UK Buildings’ showed that 78% of the 128,761 buildings inspected contained asbestos, with 71% of the 710,433 items of asbestos recorded as having some level of damage. Of the 507,612 damaged items, 24% would be classified as ‘licensable’ work and require a specialist contractor.

railway signalThe government’s response to the Department for Work and Pensions inquiry suggest that a change to regulatory requirements is unlikely in the short term, there is an increasing weight of evidence to suggest that a more proactive approach to asbestos management may be beneficial in reducing the risk further.

In September 2022, the European Commission released protocols to address the ongoing asbestos epidemic. The package of measures includes improving communication, medical treatment and the removal/disposal of toxic waste, along with lowering the occupational exposure limit to asbestos. The new lower limit would bring all the EU member states in line with lower limits currently in place in the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Germany. However, with the UK’s exit from the European Union, the proposed changes will not directly affect legislation in the UK.

The rail sector has a legal responsibility to limit the health risks posed by asbestos containing materials within non-domestic buildings and rolling stock, and SOCOTEC’s Asbestos team offers a range of services, including air monitoring and project management to surveys and material identification, to ensure that your organisation is fully compliant when it comes to asbestos management.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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