20 tradespeople die every week from asbestos



An average of twenty tradespeople die every week from asbestos related diseases, according to a new survey commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Tradespeople, including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators, could come into contact with deadly asbestos on average more than 100 times a year

As well as illustrating how often tradespeople can be exposed to asbestos, the survey revealed some common myths believed by those at risk, with 1 in seven (14 per cent) believing that drinking a glass of water will help protect them from the deadly dust and one in four (27 per cent) thinking that opening a window will help to keep them safe.

Only a third (30 per cent) of those asked, were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working, whilst more than half (57 per cent) made at least one potentially lethal mistake in trying to identify how to stay safe.

Mark Harper at the asbestos campaign launch
Mark Harper at the asbestos campaign launch

Asbestos can be found in walls and ceilings, or the structure of a building, as well as a host of other places like floor tiles, boilers, toilet cisterns, guttering and soffits.

It can be disturbed by basic maintenance work like drilling holes and sanding and once disturbed, the microscopic fibres can prove lethal if breathed in, causing lung disease and cancer.

The research, undertaken by Censuswide in September 2014, shows that while more than half (53 per cent) knew that asbestos could be in old buildings built before 1970, only 15 per cent knew that it could still be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.

And although many of those surveyed could pinpoint some asbestos-containing materials, others were clueless, with only 19 per cent recognising it could also be hidden in common fixtures such as toilet seats and cisterns.

To encourage tradespeople to think about asbestos on every job so they are prepared to deal with the danger, HSE has launched a new safety campaign.

Mark Harper, minister responsible for Health and Safety, launched the campaign at the TradePoint store in Cricklewood. TradePoint is supporting the campaign by distributing asbestos safety kits to tradespeople through their stores across Great Britain.

A key feature of the campaign is the creation of a new web app for phones, tablets and laptops that helps tradespeople easily identify where they could come into contact with the deadly material as they go about their day-to-day work and gives them tailored help on how to deal with the risks.

Mark Harper said: “The number dying every year from asbestos related-diseases is unacceptably high. Despite being banned in the construction industry, asbestos exposure remains a very serious risk to tradespeople. This safety campaign is about highlighting the risks and easy measures people can take to protect themselves. We hope the safety kits and the web app will encourage people to be aware of the risks, think twice, and take precautions to stay safe.”

Philip White, HSE’s chief inspector for construction, said: “Asbestos is still a very real danger and the survey findings suggest that the people who come into contact with it regularly often don’t know where it could be and worryingly don’t know how to deal with it correctly, which could put them in harm’s way. Our new campaign aims to help tradespeople understand some of the simple steps they can take to stay safe. Our new web app is designed for use on a job so workers can easily identify if they are likely to face danger and can then get straight forward advice to help them do the job safely.”

Steve Murphy
Steve Murphy

Construction union UCATT welcomed the new asbestos awareness campaign warned that workers have been denied effective advice for over four years due to Government penny pinching.

Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union UCATT, said; “Construction workers are at the greatest risk of being exposed to asbestos. Any campaign that warns workers of the dangers of asbestos is welcome. The campaign needs to be as wide ranging as possible and should not be confined to one company distributing information.”

According to the union, when the Conservative-led government was elected in 2010 they blocked all Government communication programmes. This resulted in the cancellation of the Hidden Killer Campaign which had won awards for raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos for construction workers.

Mr Murphy said: “The Conservative led-Government’s penny pinching means that for the last 4 and a half years, thousands of workers have been needlessly exposed to asbestos and their health put at risk.”

UCATT are dealing with an increasing number of cases where a lack of training or a lack of information means that workers are needlessly being exposed to asbestos.

Mr Murphy further added: “It is vital that construction workers receive proper training on asbestos, Pressure must be placed on employers to ensure that training takes place and workers are not victimised, threatened or blacklisted when raising concerns about asbestos, which is often the case. Employers who allow workers to be exposed to asbestos must be prosecuted.”

Tags: Asbestos, HSE, UCATT



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