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March 2, 2022

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Houses of Parliament renovation paused due to asbestos exposure

Up to nine members of parliamentary staff and multiple contractors may have been exposed to asbestos between October and November 2021, according to a report by HuffPost UK.

houses of parliamentThe HSE has been called in to help following the possible exposure of parliamentary workers. Renovation work at the Houses of Parliament has now been halted.

The incident is reported to have involved work on the Speaker’s apartments, which sit on the parliamentary estate.

A 2016 report by a joint committee of MPs warned of the need to act “speedily” to carry out renovation works on the building or risk either “a sudden, catastrophic failure or that small, incremental failures might make the building uninhabitable.”

The same report said that maintaining the building was like “trying to fill a bathtub with a thimble while water is draining out of the plughole at the other end”.

Tim Turney, Global Marketing Manager at industrial hygiene and workplace hazard monitoring company, Casella, commented: “Despite being banned in the UK, asbestos can still be found in older homes and properties, posing a threat to anyone who disturbs the dangerous material.

“Left alone, the material is not harmful, but once disturbed or disintegrating, it can release asbestos fibres that infiltrate and progressively damage lungs.

“The damage results in multiple health defects, such as the lung disease mesothelioma – a cancer that can take up to 20 years to develop, often proving fatal within five years or less.

“Whenever asbestos is removed, it is a legal requirement to use licensed contractors and to ensure strict regulations and guidance are followed to limit potential release of dangerous, airborne fibres. The guidance, depending on national practice, typically includes personal air sampling and/or static air sampling, to ensure that there is no exposure during remediation work or during the cleaning and clearance process at a removal site.”

A House of Commons spokesperson said: “The House is currently working with our contractors, supply chain and the HSE.

They concluded: “A temporary pause in construction projects was implemented to ensure lessons learned from this incident are rapidly implemented.”

Are your asbestos management plans, policies and procedures up-to-date? Read SHP’s checklist for duty holders, here. 

Read: How much of a fire risk are the Houses of Parliament?

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