Alarm installers urged to check for asbestos

Article date: 11 July 2003

Norwich Union is urging security and alarm installers to checkfor the hidden threat of asbestos before starting work incustomers’ premises, following research1 whichpredicts that 25% of the deaths from mesothelioma, the cancercaused by exposure to asbestos, will be in building trades such aselectricians, alarm installers and plumbers.

New legislation will make property owners and managersresponsible for controlling the risk arising from asbestos. Theforthcoming ‘duty to manage obligations’ comes intoforce in May 2004, but Norwich Union is advising alarm installersto start asking questions now.

Phil Grace, casualty risk manager at Norwich Union, explains:“While the dangers of asbestos in an industrial environmentare well documented, there is a hidden threat from asbestos inbuildings, putting tradesmen like security installers atrisk.”

Research indicates that the death toll from asbestos willcontinue to rise for another five to ten years, with 25% of thedeaths from mesothelioma predicted to be in the buildingtrades.

Although asbestos has been banned from new buildings, it isstill present in many properties built over the last 50 years. Itis estimated that up to 85% of commercial buildings containasbestos- containing materials (ACMs), including asbestosinsulation board, pipe lagging, ceiling and floor tiles,fire-resistant door panels and asbestos cement.

Phil Grace continues: “While it is unlikely that securityinstallers will turn down work without a guarantee that thepremises are asbestos-free, and nor do they need to, they are wellwithin their rights to encourage those in control of the buildingto adopt best practice ahead of the legislation.”

As well as asking whether an asbestos survey has been carriedout in the first place, there are also a number of simple stepsinstallers should be taking to reduce their risk of exposure toasbestos. The HSE document Asbestos Essentials Task Manual (HSG213) contains advice on how to drill asbestos insulation board, forexample, and how to remove ceiling tiles in a safe manner.

From 21 May 2004 property owners and tenants will be legallyobliged to manage the risk arising from asbestos under the Controlof Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. This includes finding outwhether ACMs are present in their buildings, where it is locatedand its condition; assessing the risks from these materials;preparing and implementing plans to manage the risks; and providinginformation to anyone liable to come into contact withasbestos.

Norwich Union Risk Services offers support and advice onreducing the risk of exposure to asbestos. Alarm installers candownload guidance on the hazards of asbestos and advice on safeworking from the website

1 Source: Peto, 1995, published in the Lancet.


For further information, please contact:
Debbie Wells at Staniforth on 0161 274 0100 or David Ross atNorwich Union on 08703 66 68 65/07786 526350.

Notes to editors

  • Norwich Union is the UK’s largest insurer with a marketshare of around 16 per cent and is more than 1.5 times the size ofits nearest rival. It is also the largest personal linesinsurer.
  • It has a focus on insurance for individuals and smallbusinesses. It insures:
    • one in five households
    • one in five motor vehicles
    • more than 700,000 businesses
  • Norwich Union products are available through a variety ofdistribution channels including brokers, corporate partners suchas banks and building societies and Norwich Union Direct.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available on the Aviva internet press centre
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality interviews.Call the press office on 08703 66 68 68

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