UCATT gets Welsh Government to take action on dangers of asbestos in housing

Welsh Government minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths, has agreed with UCATT that the issue of asbestos in housing must be addressed as a matter of urgency and will be partially tackled as part of legislation planned for later this year.

Following meetings between UCATT and Ms Griffiths, The minister has written to all chief executives of local authorities and registered social landlords calling for:

1. Crucial information on asbestos to be passed to workers and contractors doing maintenance work on a tenant’s property for work begins.
2. Caution over relying on sample asbestos surveys (see editors notes) which are unreliable.
3. A fully trained workforce which can identify asbestos and act accordingly.

In her letter Ms Griffiths said: “I would like to emphasise the need for action to minimise the risk for both tenants and for those who work in the repair and maintenance of social housing. Where contractors are used by a social landlord for improvement works, it is important for information from surveys and the asbestos register to be passed to the contractor in a timely and accurate manner.”

UCATT also raised concerns about the presence of asbestos in private rented accommodation where asbestos surveys of people’s homes are extremely rare. Ms Griffiths has said: “The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 will additionally require landlords to ensure rented properties are fit for human habitation. Whilst the regulations detailing this requirement are yet to be drafted, the presence of asbestos would almost certainly be taken into account as a part of assessing whether or not a property is fit for habitation.”

UCATT Regional Secretary for Wales, Nick Blundell, welcomed the move by the Welsh Government: “If you don’t take asbestos seriously, more and more people will continue to die from exposure. Our members in the social housing maintenance sector face this danger on a daily basis. Poor and inadequate surveying can leave maintenance workers up to their eyeballs in asbestos dust – without any protection.”

Mr Blundell added: “The minister’s words and the intentions of the Welsh Government to enshrine asbestos procedures into new legislation for Wales is not only sensible, timely and progressive - it’s lifesaving.”



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