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New safety campaign launched as 20 tradespeople die every week from asbestos related diseases

09 October 2014

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new safety campaign to raise awareness of asbestos with tradespeople – on average 20 die every week from asbestos related diseases.  

The campaign has been launched on the back of research, commissioned by the HSE and undertaken by Censuswide, which highlights a shocking lack of awareness within the trades about asbestos, where it was used, and its devastating effect.

The survey of 500 tradespeople in Great Britain also revealed some common and life threatening myths held by tradespeople about the killer dust.

Carl Griffiths, National Asbestos Helpline, says: “The HSE’s research confirms what we experience when speaking to tradespeople with diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural thickening and pleural plaques. Very little is known about where it was used and where it remains hidden.

“We think that this lack of awareness and ignorance is why more of the UK’s 40,000 plus new cases of lung cancer diagnosed every year are not investigated for asbestos exposure. People just don’t know that they’ve come into contact with it and the unusual places it was used. At the very least, if you have a lung condition and worked in a trade then you should make your doctor or consultant aware that you may have come into contact with asbestos.”

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 be lethal if breathed in, causing lung disease and cancer.

Mark Harper, Minister responsible for Health and Safety, launched the HSE campaign at a TradePoint store in Cricklewood. TradePoint is supporting the campaign by distributing asbestos safety kits to tradespeople through its stores.

Mark Harper, the Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, says: “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.”

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

A key feature of the HSE’s 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.

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.”

The HSE research found that:

  • Only half (53 per cent) knew that asbestos could be in old buildings built before 1970.
  • Just 15 per cent knew that it could still be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.
  • Just 19 per cent of those surveyed recognising asbestos could also be hidden in common fixtures such as toilet seats and cisterns.
  • One in seven (14 per cent) believe that drinking a glass of water will help protect them from the deadly dust.
  • One in four (27 per cent) think that opening a window will help keep them safe.
  • Only a third (30 per cent) of those asked, were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working.
  • And more than half (57 per cent) made at least one potentially lethal mistake in trying to identify how to stay safe. 

For more information on asbestos safety please visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos


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