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MILLION+ WORKERS AT RISK FROM ASBESTOS

Campaign aims to prevent 20 asbestos deaths each week

HSE has today (9th October) launched a new asbestos safety campaign after revealing that twenty tradespeople, on average, die every week from asbestos related diseases.  

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 such as drilling holes and sanding. Once disturbed, the microscopic fibres can prove lethal if breathed in, causing lung disease and cancer.

Former electrical consultant Simon Clark was diagnosed with mesothelioma when he was just 52, said:

“When I was younger I didn’t think of the dangers of asbestos and I must have been exposed to it frequently. Since being diagnosed. I’ve had to give up my work. It is vitally important that everybody knows when they might be exposed and takes the correct steps to protect themselves.”

Survey reveals extent of risk and ‘cluelessness’!

Tradespeople, including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators, could come into contact with deadly asbestos on average more than 100 times a year* according to a new survey commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)**. 

The survey revealed 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. 

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.

Safety kits and the web app

The HSE campaign was launched by Mark Harper, Minister responsible for Health and Safety, at the TradePoint store in London. 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, Minister responsible for Health and Safety, 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.”

Philip White, HSE’s Chief Inspector for Construction, said:

“ 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, 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.

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”

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