Historic Buildings: Health Hazards

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered on 24th June 2019.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the protections introduced in Germany and Austria for workers renovating or demolishing buildings against the risk of breathing in historical man-made mineral fibres which are now considered to pose a serious risk to health, what steps she is taking to introduce similar protections for UK workers.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is aware of the guidelines that have been produced in Germany and Austria, advising companies on the measures they should take to protect workers against risks of breathing in historic man-made mineral fibres (MMMFs).

In Great Britain there is a statutory framework in place to protect workers who may be exposed to any hazardous substance, such as MMMFs, regardless of how that exposure occurs. This framework includes the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 which places a general duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of people affected by their work activities.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), places specific duties on employers and implements several EU Directives on worker protection, ensuring our standards meet those required of all EU Member States. COSHH requires employers to carry out a risk assessment to establish the hazards associated with the tasks and processes they are undertaking and put in place suitable arrangements to either prevent or control those risks. Such a risk assessment would need to be carried out for workers renovating or demolishing buildings to enable suitable controls to be put in place for any hazardous substances that may be present or that may be produced, including MMMFs. HSE provides guidance, to help businesses comply with their legal duties.

The regulatory framework, supported by guidance, is sufficient to control occupational exposure to MMMFs.

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