Adrian Hodkinson Appointed Head of HSE’s Asbestos Unit: A Strategic Focus on Industry Standards & Safety

ARCA caught up with Adrian Hodkinson to discuss his new role and vision for the HSE’s Asbestos Unit. During their discussion, ARCA posed several questions to Adrian, including what inspired him to take on this important position, his priorities for the Asbestos Unit, and how he plans to address the growing challenges within the industry.

Adrian Hodkinson was pleased to take on the role of Head of HSE’s Asbestos Unit in April 2024. The Asbestos Unit sits within HSE’s Engagement and Policy Division, alongside other teams such as those tackling risks in the construction industry, as well as other permissioning regimes, such as work with ionising radiation. The Asbestos Unit’s main work involves assessing asbestos licence applications, monitoring licensee performance and engaging with the licensed asbestos industry and trade bodies.

Joining HSE as a trainee factory inspector in the early 90’s, Adrian qualified and progressed into a construction role where part of his work involved inspection, investigation and prosecution of licensed asbestos contractors in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

Adrian said: “I found asbestos work particularly rewarding because I was helping workers safeguard their health, and helping to assure the public that high standards were in place”.

Before coming back to an asbestos[1]related role Adrian had a varied career in HSE including regulating high-hazard sites across the East of England. He was a lead investigator in the Buncefield Oil Terminal Explosion and was promoted to manage a Major Hazards and Chemicals team. Before taking on his new role in the Asbestos Unit, he was Head of Agriculture for HSE.

When we asked what attracted him to this current position at the HSE, Adrian said “Archie’s retirement allowed me to move into this crucial role that is important for HSE and the industry. Asbestos-related deaths continue to be a huge concern to society, the industry and HSE, and I am excited to be able to play a part in helping to reduce the prevalence of asbestos-related ill health and ensure the public is properly protected.”

Like his predecessor, Adrian’s key priorities in this role are to ensure consistent regulation of the industry to maintain and improve health and safety standards, and robust action to tackle poor performers.

Adrian is also keen to look at how non-licensed businesses affect the health and safety of the licensed asbestos contractors, and how HSE and trade organisations can influence these; for example, face fit testers, asbestos training providers, non-licensed asbestos removal work and asbestos surveyors, as well as the role of clients and their duty to manage to be a wider priority for HSE.

Growing challenges and opportunities for the licensed asbestos industry include extensive building refurbishment work owing to Net Zero. HSE is already working with industry through the Construction Leadership Council to make sure asbestos safety is part of the planning process and highlight the importance of managing these risks.

Work is underway in HSE in response to the accepted recommendations of the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into how HSE manages the regulation of asbestos which was published in April 2022. The Government agrees that addressing Great Britain’s asbestos legacy remains a key issue and that continuing to improve and build on the evidence base around safe management and disposal of asbestos is fundamental. This year, HSE is continuing to focus on health topics including asbestos and it’s great to see ARCA supporting HSE’s ‘Asbestos: Your Duty’ and ‘Asbestos & You’ campaigns.

Alongside the communication campaigns, HSE is continuing a programme of inspection of compliance with the duty to manage in public Adrian Hodkinson Appointed Head of HSE’s Asbestos Unit: A Strategic Focus on Industry Standards and Safety issue 124 · arca & atac news 17 hse news sector buildings. Licensed asbestos removal contractors will also be inspected to ensure compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR).

Elsewhere in HSE, work is underway to review the licensing fee structure. Asbestos Unit’s aim is to ensure that its work is properly and fairly funded through a transparent and proportionate licensing fee structure. There will be a consultation with the industry on any proposed changes to how businesses will be charged for an asbestos licence before them coming into force.

When asked what role trade associations play in the asbestos industry and whether he would like to see them doing anything that they are not currently doing, Adrian said: “It would be great if trade associations could reach licensed contractors in more remote areas with on-site audits and support, and also look at ways of enticing more non-licensed asbestos removal businesses to join to involve those harder to reach employers and workers”.

Adrian says he is looking forward to working with ARCA and other trade organisations in this key industry and continuing to develop plans to reduce risk and keep workers and the public safe.