RASCS News

HSE LAUNCHES ASBESTOS AWARENESS CAMPAIGN

ASBESTOS

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have been widely used in the construction industry due to their heat-resistant properties. Although the use of asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999, it still poses a significant risk to workers who come into contact with it. In this article, we will discuss the types of asbestos and the dangers that they present to UK workers.

Types of Asbestos:

There are six types of asbestos, but the three most commonly used in construction are Chrysotile, Amosite, and Crocidolite.

Chrysotile:

Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, is the most common type of asbestos used in the UK. It was widely used in the construction of buildings, particularly in insulation, roofing, and fireproofing materials. Chrysotile has long, curly fibers that are less likely to break apart than other types of asbestos, making it less dangerous. However, it is still a known carcinogen and can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other serious respiratory diseases.

Amosite:

Amosite, also known as brown asbestos, was commonly used in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s. It has long, straight fibers that are more brittle than those of Chrysotile, making it more dangerous when inhaled. Amosite is often found in insulation boards, ceiling tiles, and cement sheets.

Crocidolite:

Crocidolite, also known as blue asbestos, is the most dangerous type of asbestos. It has thin, straight fibers that can easily be inhaled and lodged in the lungs. Crocidolite was mainly used in the UK for insulation and was also used in the manufacture of cement pipes and sheets.

Dangers of Asbestos to UK Workers:

Exposure to asbestos can cause serious health problems, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. These diseases can take years or even decades to develop and can be fatal. UK workers who are at risk of exposure to asbestos include construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and heating engineers.

It is essential that workers who may come into contact with asbestos are properly trained and equipped with the appropriate protective gear. Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that workers are protected from the dangers of asbestos.

In conclusion, asbestos is a dangerous substance that poses a significant risk to workers in the UK. Although the use of asbestos has been banned for over two decades, it is still present in many older buildings and can be released during renovation or demolition work. Workers must be properly trained and protected to prevent exposure to asbestos and the associated health risks.

Asbestos: Young tradespeople need to know the risk

Millennials, gen Z workers and other younger people who work as plumbers, electricians, and in other trades need to take the risk of asbestos much more seriously. That’s the message from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The workplace regulator has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with the dangerous substance.

The campaign, called Asbestos and You, will target all tradespeople with a focus on younger workers in trades such as plastering and joinery. HSE wants to reach construction workers who started their careers after the use of asbestos was banned in 1999.

The regulator is concerned the length of time it takes for symptoms to develop after asbestos exposure could lead to a perception among today’s younger workers that it is something that only impacts older people who were working before the ban.

Five thousand people a year still die from asbestos related illnesses and asbestos can still be found in buildings built or refurbished before the year 2000.

Asbestos containing materials were used extensively in the construction and maintenance of buildings in Great Britain from the 1950s until the ban. That means construction workers of all ages could still be exposed to asbestos fibres today.

HSE’s chief executive Sarah Albon said: “Asbestos exposure in Great Britain is still the single greatest cause of work-related deaths.  We are committed to protecting people in the workplace and reducing future work-related ill health.

“Everyone working in construction today, of any age, must take the risk from asbestos seriously.

“Asbestos is dangerous when not maintained in a safe condition or if physically disturbed without the right measures in place to avoid fibres being released into the air.”

If asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer, asbestosis, and pleural thickening. Construction tradespeople of any age are at significant risk if they disturb materials containing asbestos during repairs and refurbishment.

HSE’s head of health and work policy Mike Calcutt said: “These diseases often take a long time to develop, and it can take 20 to 30 years for symptoms to appear.

“It is crucial that all workers know how to recognise the dangers and take the right actions to protect themselves and those around them from being exposed to asbestos fibres.”

Find out more about the Asbestos and You campaign, and visit HSE’s website for further guidance on asbestos.