Last reviewed 1 August 2022

A report on the approach to asbestos management of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was published in April 2022 by Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee.

Available here, the 64-page report described asbestos-related illness as one of the great workplace tragedies of modern times.

It argues that HSE has been slow to invest in research to better understand the costs and benefits of more wholesale removal of asbestos and options for its safer removal.

The Committee called on the Government and HSE to develop and publish a strategic plan to achieve the goal of removing asbestos from non-domestic buildings within 40 years, focusing on removing the highest risk asbestos first and the early removal from the highest risk settings including schools.

The Government’s response to the report has now been published and can be found here.

It rejects the Committee’s key recommendation with regard to setting a deadline to remove all asbestos from public and commercial buildings.

Committee Chairman, Sir Stephen Timm, said: “The Government argues that fixing a deadline for asbestos removal would increase the opportunity for exposure, but the risk is likely to increase anyway with the drive towards retrofitting of buildings to meet net zero aspirations. Setting a clear target should just be one part of a new properly joined-up strategy.”

This strategy should boost the evidence base for the safe removal and disposal of a material that is still the single greatest cause of work-related fatalities in the country, he went on.

Sir Stephen highlighted that the material remains in around 300,000 non-domestic buildings and that there were more than 5000 asbestos-related deaths in 2019, including from cancers such as mesothelioma.