Uncertainty and ignorance surrounding the dangers of exposure to asbestos could be putting the lives of industry workers at risk, with more than two-thirds of those questioned in a recent survey being unaware the material can cause serious illness.
Of the 500 construction workers interviewed by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), 68 percent did not know that asbestos can cause lung disease that can lead to cancer.
An understanding of the dangers posed was particularly low among workers in London, with just 37 percent being aware of the risk.
Almost one in five industry workers said they would be uncertain or would not know what to do if they came across asbestos on a job. One in three admitted they do not check asbestos registers for a site, while 15 percent were unaware registers even existed.
Building owners, or those responsible for repair and maintenance, are required to assess whether a building contains asbestos and make this information available to anyone working on it.
UK Industrial Injuries Advisory Council Chair Lesley Rushton said employers needed to work harder to advise workers about dealing with asbestos.
“Uncertainty and ignorance surrounding how to prevent workers from breathing in the fibres is deeply worrying,” she said.
“This is particularly the case among small companies, sole traders and older workers.”
More than 5,000 people die from asbestos-related cancers in the UK every year as a result of exposure at work.
A Health and Safety Executive study from 2012 found construction workers accounted for 66 percent of all asbestos-related cancer deaths.
The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations came into effect in 1987 as the first measure of protection for workers, setting out guidelines for working with the material. Bans on some types of asbestos were implemented in 1985, but other types were still permitted for installation up to 1999.
The fire-retarding material could still be in spray coatings, lagging and insulation boards in as many as half a million buildings, according to IOSH.
In 2016, Balfour Beatty made a £14m provision in its accounts to cover claims of exposure to asbestos that occurred before 1972, which would not be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
How can Gotelee help?
Asbestos’s deadly legacy has brought tragedy and torment to thousands of families, particularly here in Suffolk, where the effect of exposure to the material continues to be felt.
If you or a member of your family has suffered an asbestos-related illness or if you have lost a loved one to the disease, you may be able to make a claim for compensation and claim state benefits.
There are several diseases associated with asbestos exposure. Not all of them are fatal but all cause damage to health and quality of life.
Our vast local knowledge of how asbestos was used in the region means we can settle most claims quickly and effectively.