Health and Safety gone mad? Hardly.

It’s a funny thing about Health and Safety regulations. Sometimes what is deemed “healthy” or “safe” seems more likely to be what is “cheap” or “convenient”.

Take asbestos as an example.

Asbestos is a truly pernicious substance and can cause people to die in horrible ways. Particles are invisible, you can’t smell them, taste them or – once in your lungs – get rid of them.

It is also widespread, producing appalling statistics. Asbestos is currently responsible for some 5,000 deaths a year in the UK, and this is expected to rise to 10,000 a year. Compare this to around 3,000 people killed in road traffic accidents each year.

So you might think that asbestos is being sought out and removed? No: economics gets in the way. Imports of asbestos were banned in 1999 and the big plan is to know where it is and leave it alone as long as possible. Inevitably it is sometimes disturbed or has to be removed.

You might then think the most extreme precautions are taken over this most extremely dangerous substance? No. Economics again.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations set acceptable standards for the amount of asbestos particles in the air; this just so happens to be the same amount most asbestos removal contractors can achieve during cleaning, and just so happens also to be the same amount most asbestos inspectors can measure with their usual equipment.

Certainly not a case of “Health and Safety gone mad”!


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