Asbestos exposure kills 20 contractors a week

The amount of tradespeople at risk from the dangers of asbestos could be as high as 1.3 million, new research suggests.

The perils of coming into contact with asbestos will be well-known by those in the business of constructing or refurbishing commercial kitchens, but the latest statistics still present a frightening picture.

It is estimated that an average of 20 tradespeople in the UK die every week from asbestos-related diseases.

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The HSE this week launched a new safety campaign after a survey it commissioned revealed that tradespeople could come into contact with the deadly material more than 100 times a year on average.

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.

Research undertaken last month shows that while 53% of traders knew that asbestos could be in old buildings built before 1970, only 15% knew that it could still be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.

HSE’s campaign seeks to encourage tradespeople to think about asbestos on every job so they are prepared to deal with the danger.

Mark Harper, minister responsible for Health and Safety, announced that a key feature of the programme is the creation of a phone and tablet app that helps tradespeople easily identify where they could come into contact with asbestos and how to deal with the risks.

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.”

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