HSE awareness campaign on the continuing dangers of asbestos

Asbestos-related diseases are taking the lives of 4000 people every year in the UK and numbers are on the increase, warns the Health and Safety Executive.

The HSE released the figures as part of a new campaign aimed at tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers. Almost 1000 of the 4000 deaths are tradespeople and, while the number of deaths in traditional industries has plateaued, deaths in trades continue to rise.

Former plasterer and England and Arsenal football player, Ian Wright, has given his support to help highlight the importance of the HSE’s “Asbestos:The Hidden Killer” campaign which is running throughout October and November and aims to reduce the rising death rate by educating today’s tradespeople about the danger that asbestos presents to them.

Steve Coldrick, director of the HSE’s Disease Reduction Programme says: “We need to educate tradespeople about how asbestos and its dangers are relevant to them. We want them to change the way they work so that they don’t put their lives at risk.”

“I can really relate to the situations tradespeople find themselves in and urge them to take care,” added campaign ambassador Ian Wright.

Steve Coldrick explained why a major campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the real risk that tradesmen face, “Exposure to asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths, with around 4000 people a year dying from asbestos-related disease. The overall number of deaths is rising because a large number of workers who have already been exposed to asbestos dust around 40 years ago will go on to develop mesothelioma, a terminal cancer or other asbestos related diseases.”

"The HSE campaign is vital because research shows that only one in ten tradespeople know that exposure to asbestos can prove fatal," says Jill Morrell, head of public affairs at the British Lung Foundation. "The asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma is a cruel disease which as yet has no cure. We must do all we can to prevent more people dying from this preventable disease"

Asbestos still presents a risk to plumbers, joiners, electricians and many other maintenance workers. Asbestos may be present in any building constructed or refurbished before the year 2000, and it is estimated that around 500 000 non-domestic buildings could contain asbestos. Asbestos fibres can be disturbed during building maintenance by drilling or cutting; they are then likely to be inhaled as a deadly dust.