Public relations specialist
Asbestos drive to cut toll of 20 deaths a week
The British Lung Foundation is launching a major asbestos campaign this week in a bid to cut the current toll of 20 construction workers a week dying from the effects of exposure.
The Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign is aimed at tradespeople.
The foundation said that every week on average 20 tradesmen – six electricians, four plumbers and eight joiners die in the UK from exposure to asbestos.
The material was outlawed in 2000 but thousands of building still contain asbestos.
Federation research showed a worrying lack of information and training among small employers and sole traders, with workers not seeing it as a big risk or worrying about losing jobs and money if they raise concerns, and not knowing how to identify asbestos and what to do if they find asbestos.
When disturbed and inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause a range of illnesses, including the terminal chest cancer mesothelioma.
The tiny invisible particles stick to clothes, meaning that as well as risking their own lives, workers can be unknowingly putting their family members, colleagues and friends at risk.
The Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to ensure tradespeople have the knowledge to act safely and responsibly, ensuring they can identify asbestos and determine what type it is, and assess whether they have the training and equipment to deal with it safely.
British Lung Foundation Chief Executive Dr Penny Woods said: “Twice as many people die from asbestos-related illnesses than on the roads each year in Britain.
“It’s the biggest work-related killer, and the numbers of deaths associated with it are rising each year.
“Sole traders and people working for small companies are often under particular pressure to take jobs and deliver quickly, and this can sometimes put them at particular risk of asbestos exposure.
“But it’s not just tradespeople putting their own lives at risk. If asbestos is disturbed the particles can affect others too, and we know several women who have died after years of washing their husbands’ contaminated overalls.
“Our Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to give tradespeople the tools to act responsibly. We want to ensure they can identify asbestos wherever and in whatever form it might be present, and know how to deal with it safely.
“Our message is simple – taking just five minutes to assess the situation could save your life, and keep your family, friends, clients and business safe from exposure to potentially fatal asbestos dust.”
For more details on the campaign click here