18 June 2015 | Herpreet Grewal
A proposed asbestos bill would make it compulsory for the deadly building material to be removed from public buildings, delegates at a conference heard today.
John McClean, national health and safety officer at trade union GMB, told delegates at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health's annual conference, that the Trades Union Congress (TUC) had put together an asbestos bill before the general election.
McClean said: “The next stage will be to wait for when the ballot for the Private Members Bill comes…The Private Members Bill is usually taken by a backbench MP… and sometimes you can persuade an MP to take your bill up... Like asbestos removal this [process] won't happen in a few weeks, this will be an ongoing [campaign].”
But if the bill does make it into law it would mean a long-term plan for the removal of asbestos from public buildings.
McClean says it would mean "better control of asbestos, better registry of it and eventually removal of it”. It could essentially affect those who might not be surveying and registering asbestos in the buildings that they manage, according to McClean. If those who manage buildings are not controlling and registering asbestos within their building, the bill may mean "they could be brought to book", according to McClean.
Lawyer Harminder Bains, speaking at the same event, also said there had to be more awareness of asbestos in buildings by those who managed and worked in them.
She said one of her clients, who worked at retailer Marks & Spencer’s Marble Arch store, contracted cancer as a result of asbestos exposure. Bains says there has been a rise in cases involving those “inadvertently exposed” to the deadly building material.
Bains, who has been dealing with asbestos claims for 20 years, told FM World: “When I first started this with my clients they were factory and shipyard workers but those industries are much smaller. But now my clients are working in buildings made of asbestos. They started working there from late teens/early twenties and this disease takes anything from 10 to 20 years to grow... Also pupils and teachers in schools have been exposed so the age group contacting these diseases has become much younger.”