The European Commission this week announced a ban on the use of white, or chrysotile, asbestos from 2005.

Construction union UCATT, which has campaigned for a ban in the UK, welcomed the commission’s decision, which will prohibit the use of the material in cement products such as pipes and roofing.

UCATT safety officer Margaret Sharkey said: “There are now no more hurdles preventing the government from pressing ahead with a ban.” In May, the Health and Safety Commission recommended a ban on the use of white asbestos in the UK, and the government is expected to introduce legislation banning white asbestos within the next 12 months.

The government has been under pressure to prove its credentials as the guardian of safety on sites.

Last week it launched a Respect for People initiative, aimed at improving the conditions for all those involved with the construction industry.