Health & Safety

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Every Job Beware Asbestos Campaign

13 October 2014

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new safety campaign as an average of 20 tradespeople die every week from asbestos related diseases. 1.3 million tradespeople at risk from dangers of asbestos, including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators, who 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 Asbestos Web App

The research, undertaken by Censuswide in September 2014, shows that while more than half (53%) 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. As well as illustrating how often tradespeople can be exposed to asbestos, the survey revealed some common myths believed by those at risk, with one in seven (14%) believing that drinking a glass of water will help protect them from the deadly dust and one in four (27%) thinking that opening a window will help to keep them safe. Only a third (30%) of those asked, were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working, whilst more than half (57%) made at least one potentially lethal mistake in trying to identify how to stay safe.

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 like drilling holes and sanding and once disturbed, the microscopic fibres can prove lethal if breathed in, causing lung disease and cancer. And although many of those surveyed could pinpoint some asbestos-containing materials, others were clueless, with only 19% recognising it could also be hidden in common fixtures such as toilet seats and cisterns.

HSE Asbestos Awareness Web App

To encourage tradespeople to think about asbestos on every job so they are prepared to deal with the danger, HSE has created 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.

Former electrical consultant Simon Clark, who in 2012 was diagnosed with mesothelioma the life-threatening and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos when he was just 52, said:

When I was younger I didnt think of the dangers of asbestos and I must have been exposed to it frequently. Since being diagnosed, Ive had to give up my work and let some of my employees go which is the hardest thing Ive ever done. It is vitally important that everybody knows when they might be exposed and takes the correct steps to protect themselves.

Note:
* Survey results revealed that tradespeople work an average of 2.29 days a week in buildings built before 2000 (i.e. buildings that could potentially contain asbestos). This is then taken and multiplied by 48 (52 weeks per year minus an estimated 4 weeks non-working time) to produce an annual figure.
** The statistics in this press release are based on the results of a survey of 500 tradespeople in Great Britain carried out by Censuswide in September 2014.