Success of HSE Asbestos Campaign
One of the key statistics used as part of the HSE asbestos campaign is that approximately 20 workmen die every week from asbestos related diseases. This includes 8 joiners, 6 electricians and 4 plumbers. In total, around 4000 people a year die from asbestos-related diseases. About 25% of these are tradesmen and the rate of deaths among this group continues to rise.
Asbestos is a fibrous material that is a good insulator. It is also fire resistant and protects against corrosion. Because of these properties, it has been a popular building material in the past. However, it is an extremely dangerous substance. If the tiny fibres found in asbestos get into the lungs, they can cause cancer and other conditions. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. It affects the lining of the lungs and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract. It is usually fatal and often develops 40 to 60 years after exposure. Around 2000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year and about 1800 people die from the condition every year. It is estimated that the number of deaths will increase in the future because of the long gap between exposure and diagnosis.
Asbestos exposure can also cause lung cancer which looks the same as lung cancer caused by smoking. Another condition is Asbestosis, where exposure to asbestos causes damage to of the lungs. This can lead to shortness of breath and can be fatal. The fourth major condition is Pleural thickening, which results in the lining of the lungs thickening and swelling. This can lead to shortness of breath.
The best way to avoid these serious conditions is to avoid exposure to asbestos and to take precautions when working with materials that may contain it. Asbestos can be found in: sprayed coating on structural supports, pipe insulation, insulating board, floor tiles, roof sheeting and textured decorative coating. Asbestos was banned as a building material in 1999. Therefore, any building built before 2000 could contain asbestos. The HSE estimates that around 500,000 non-domestic buildings in the UK still contain asbestos. This means that when any maintenance is needed on these buildings, workers may be exposed to asbestos unless their employers take the proper precautions and provide the correct safety equipment.
HSE asbestos guidance states that anyone working with asbestos needs to have to undertaken asbestos awareness training plus job-specific training. Employers have a legal duty to provide up-to-date information on the location and condition of any asbestos and to protect workers from harmful exposure.