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Retail sector updates asbestos regulations

New guidelines have been published to help retailers understand and follow asbestos regulations on their premises. The news will be of interest to construction apprentices, who will be affected by the guidelines when working on retail construction.

The document, entitled The Management of Asbestos Containing Materials in the Retail Sector, was produced by Retail Asbestos Working Group (RAWG).

Promoting the continuous improvement of asbestos management in the retail sector, the document has long-term implications for apprentices, who will now have clear and concise guidelines to follow and protect them when working with asbestos in retail construction.

The guide is aimed at those working in or on buildings that contain asbestos, most of which were constructed before January 2000 following the asbestos ban in November 1999.

The guidelines give clear instructions as to how contractors, sub-contractors and apprentices should approach the management of asbestos during building work, with particular emphasis on the time and space required to safely remove asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos remains a concern in the UK, with 429 deaths caused by asbestosis in 2011 and past exposure to asbestos fibres affecting over 4,000 people every year. In 2012, 2,291 people died from mesothelioma, a form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs and associated with occupational asbestos exposure.

The updated regulations, which have been backed by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), were produced following an incident involving retail giant Marks & Spencer in which construction workers were put at risk of exposure while working on the company's Reading branch. Marks & Spencer, along with Asda and Boots, joined the RAWG to publish the new guidance to help retailers avoid similar incidents in the future.

Michelle Irving of the BRC says that the organisation welcomes the new initiative. She said: "While the retail sector isn't alone in facing day-to-day challenges managing asbestos-containing materials, this guidance directly tackles the specific challenges retailers face, and provides up-to-date and practical advice."