A report published by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on 29 June 2022 revealed large delays. The House Administration was three months late to release information about a recent asbestos incident.
“The House authorities’ failure to manage asbestos incidents transparently, or with alacrity, underlines an approach which does not welcome scrutiny.“
Although not explicitly confirmed inside the report, the ‘recent incident’ described is likely referring to a late-2021 asbestos-related incident that occurred inside the House of Commons during a multi-billion pound project to renovate and restore the Palace of Westminster and Parliamentary buildings.
While the National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants reported that “9 parliamentary workers and multiple contractors” were exposed to the particles from October to November 2021, a freedom of information response from the House of Lords issued in March of this year said:
“The House of Lords Administration is aware of an asbestos-related incident that occurred in a House of Commons area of the Parliamentary Estate in late 2021. As this incident only involved a House of Commons area and/or House of Commons personnel, the House of Lords Administration does not hold a record of the number of people suspected to have been exposed to asbestos as a result of this incident.”
So, it’s been revealed that a recent asbestos-related incident did occur that the House Administration restricted information about. It’s also clear from the report that revealed this information to us, that we’re not going to get much more information, advice, or guidance about asbestos out of the UK government.
The asbestos awareness video
What is asbestos?
Satish Patel: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. There are probably over 3000 materials in the UK that contain it in some shape or form. Once processed, this raw mineral was added to other products. It has fire protection properties, but it also strengthens other products.
What’s the problem?
Satish Patel: Unfortunately, lots of materials contain asbestos. Taking this material out is a long process because it has to be managed on-site and then companies, like our trade companies, come in and remove the material.
The most shocking fact is that this week 4 plumbers, 6 electricians, and 8 joiners will pass away for having done nothing more than going to work. This year, 5000 individuals will die from asbestos-related cancer. This is not an old person’s problem; this is something that could happen to you.
How do I protect myself?
Satish Patel: It’s important for anybody that works in the construction industry, who may come across asbestos, to have at least specific awareness training done. That’s a legal requirement; it’s there for your safety. It helps you identify what could be asbestos, stop the work, and then seek clarification. If you haven’t had that, you need to speak to your employer and make sure you’ve had your training. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business.
We all wear gloves and hard hats, but in the asbestos removal industry, it’s important that individuals wear the right PPE; it’s our last line of defence. We wear full-faced, powered respirators and protective coveralls, which protect your skin from the mineral. That allows individuals to work in there safely.