A recent HSE survey revealed that twenty tradespeople die every week from asbestos related diseases in a world where ignorance with regards to the dangers of asbestos still exists among many.
The survey also revealed some common myths believed by those at risk. Rather worryingly one in seven of those questioned believed that drinking a glass of water could help protect them from asbestos and its deadly affects. One in four of those questioned thought that opening a window could help with safety from asbestos dust and fibres.
Only a third of those questionedcould identify all of the correct measures for asbestos management and working. More than half of those surveyed had made at least one potentially fatal mistake in trying to identify how to stay safe when asbestos was concerned.
Only 15% of those surveyed were aware that asbestos could be found in buildings built up to the year 2000. Most assumed it was only buildings before 1970 that could be affected.
The HSE has launched a new safety campaign with Mark Harper, Minister responsible for Health and Safety and TradePoint, with a key feature being the creation of a new web app for phones, tablets and laptops that helps tradespeople easily identify where they could come into contact with asbestos as they go about their work.
Lack of Asbestos Knowledge Raises Concerns
A concern for domestic tradesmen and especially plumbers was that less than one in five knew that asbestos could be found in toilet seats and cisterns.
Health and safety minister 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.”
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 straightforward advice to help them do the job safely.”
Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said:
“Construction workers are the greatest risk of being exposed to asbestos. Any campaign that warns workers of the dangers of asbestos is to be welcomed. However the campaign needs to be as wide ranging as possible and should not be confined to one company to distribute information.
“Over the last four and a half years, thousands of workers have been needlessly exposed to asbestos and their health has been put at risk because of that decision.
It is vital that construction workers receive proper training in the dangers of asbestos, where it is likely to be found and what to do if you suspect asbestosis present. It is essential that pressure is placed on employers to ensure that training takes place and that workers are not victimised or threatened when raising concerns about asbestos, which is often the case”.
Former electrical consultant Simon Clark, who in 2012 was diagnosed with mesothelioma when he was just 52, commented on his asbestos exposure:
“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 and let some of my employees go – which is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
It is vitally important that everybody knows when they might be exposed and takes the correct steps to protect themselves.”
BBC Look East Thursday 9th October 2014. Raising Asbestos Awareness including an interview with Mesothelioma patient Simon Clark. Used with kind permission of Claire Cowley.
How We Can Help
At Asbestos Justice we have represented many tradesmen over the years including electricians, plumbers, heating engineers and industrial painters, all of whom have been exposed to asbestos during the course of their work and sadly developed an asbestos related condition.
Whilst in most cases the exposure happened many years ago, clients have reported being exposed more recently to asbestos. Even clients who have been exposed to asbestos over the years remain unaware of the continuing risks of asbestos even today.
Concern is high for young workers who may be unaware of the dangers of asbestos at all. We continue to strive to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos by getting involved in awareness with local events and online. We believe that if just one person can gain the knowledge to protect them from future harm we have helped in some way.
We would invite you to share this article with anyone you know who might risk coming into contact with asbestos.