Asbestos is one of the single biggest causes of workplace deaths and can be found in ceilings and walls, the structure of a building and places such as floor tiles, toilet cisterns, boilers, guttering and soffits. Asbestos can be disturbed by basic maintenance from as little as sanding or drilling a hole and once it is disturbed, the microscopic fibres can prove lethal if breathed in; ultimately causing lung disease and cancer.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have said that 20 tradespeople die every week in the UK due to asbestos-related diseases. They have also estimated that trades-people could come into contact with asbestos more than 100 times every year: whether they know it or not.
They conducted a survey in September, of 500 trades-people which found that more than two thirds failed to identify measures for keeping safe while working around asbestos: with as little as 19% recognising it could be hidden in fixtures such as cisterns and toilet seats.
Leading UK law firm, Accident Advice Helpline said “Asbestos is one of the biggest causes of work place illnesses and results in far too many deaths every year, so it’s vital that people keep themselves safe when working around it.”
The survey found that 70% of carpenters and joiners said they knew how to protect themselves from the risk of asbestos exposure; but only 55% of construction workers gave the same answer.
As part of the campaign to raise awareness for asbestos safety the HSE have launched a free Beware Asbestos app in order to help workers identify whether they could be at risk. They’re also giving away 200,000 asbestos safety kits.
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.”
Accident Advice Helpline said “A lot of workers have been exposed to asbestos due to a lack of training or a lack of information surrounding how to deal with it. The results from this survey are worrying because work places should be providing this training to prevent endangering their workers.”
As well as revealing the knowledge gap most workers have about protecting themselves from asbestos, the survey revealed some common myths that were believed by those at work. 1 in 7 people believed that drinking a glass of water would help protect them from the deadly dust whilst 1 in 4 people thought that opening a window would help to keep them safe.
Simon Clark, a former electrical consultant, was diagnosed with mesothelioma- the life-threatening and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos- when he was 52. He said “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.” He went on to say that “It is vitally important that everybody knows when they might be exposed and takes the correct steps to protect themselves.”
If you’ve been injured at work through a lack of training or the negligence of your employer you could be entitled to compensation to help you get back on the right track. Accident Advice Helpline have been helping people make personal injury claims for fourteen years and are here to help you every step of the way. Speak to one of their advisers by calling 0800 689 0500.