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Keep People Safe From The Dangers Of Asbestos, Regulator Warns

In January 2024, HSE launched a campaign which aims to improve understanding of what the legal duty to manage asbestos involves. This backs up the 2023 campaign aimed at tradespeople across Great Britain who were being warned about the real dangers associated with asbestos.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) wants anyone with responsibilities for buildings to do everything they must do to comply with the law and prevent exposure to this dangerous substance, which was widely used in post-war construction before it was completely banned in 1999.

The legal duty to manage asbestos covers a wide range of buildings such as museums, schools, hospitals, and places of worship, as well as workplaces like offices and factories. Businesses and organisations responsible for premises built before the turn of the century, and especially those between 1950 and 1980 when the use of asbestos in construction was at its peak, must carry out the necessary checks and understand their legal responsibilities.

People who visit or work in these buildings will not be exposed if asbestos is properly contained. But it can become dangerous when disturbed or damaged.

Updated information, new templates (including an asbestos management plan template), and explanatory videos can be found on HSE’s website to help anyone who is unsure of their legal duties – or just need to refresh themselves – on what they need to do.

Asbestos exposure in Great Britain is still the single greatest cause of work-related deaths due to exposures decades ago. The Health and Safety Executive have estimated that currently in the UK, about 5,000 people pass away each year due to illnesses caused by asbestos which can still be present in buildings built or renovated before 2000. Even though the use of asbestos is banned the HSE warns that many buildings still contain the substance, posing a serious risk to anyone exposed, regardless of their age.

 

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a set of natural fibrous minerals valued for their strong and heat-resistant properties, historically used in commercial applications.

An image of Asbestos and what it looks like

That’s why asbestos is used for insulation in buildings and in various products like roofing shingles, water pipes, and fire blankets. It’s also found in car parts like clutches, brake linings, gaskets, and pads.

Chrysotile, recognized as white asbestos, and crocidolite, known as blue asbestos, are the main types of asbestos. Other varieties comprise amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite.

 

Why is asbestos a problem?

Contact with any form of asbestos can lead to cancers in the lungs, larynx and ovaries, as well as mesothelioma – a cancer affecting the linings of the chest and abdomen. Asbestos exposure can also result in other illnesses like lung fibrosis (asbestosis) and thickening of the lungs lining.

Presently, around 125 million people globally are exposed to asbestos while working. About half of work-related cancer deaths are believed to be due to asbestos. Additionally, several thousand deaths each year are thought to be linked to asbestos exposure at home.

It has also been shown that co-exposure to tobacco smoke and asbestos fibres substantially increases the risk for lung cancer – and the heavier the smoking, the greater the risk.

 

Will you get sick right away? 

These diseases don’t show up right away as they usually take a long time to develop. By the time they are diagnosed, it’s often too late to take action.

It might take 20 to 30 years before any symptoms show up. These symptoms can involve shortness of breath, a constant cough, wheezing, extreme fatigue, chest, or shoulder pain, and in severe cases, swollen fingertips. 

 

Key facts to think about: 

  • About 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace.
  • All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are carcinogenic to humans.
  • Asbestos can cause serious diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer, asbestosis, and pleural thickening. 
  • These diseases will not affect you immediately as they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything.

Find out more about the Asbestos and You campaign.

Alternatively, if you realise you could be at risk for high exposure to Asbestos, contact us to get a risk assessment. We’ll be there to assist you as soon as possible.

 

References: 

https://workright.campaign.gov.uk/campaigns/asbestos/?utm_source=press.hse.gov.uk&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=asbestos-trades-23&utm_content=homepage

https://press.hse.gov.uk/2023/04/06/asbestos-and-you/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asbestos-elimination-of-asbestos-related-diseases 

 

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