Why Asbestos Is Still A Terrifying Threat
With asbestos-related deaths still at a peak, it is essential that the construction industry understands the risks to its workers to safeguard their future health.
Over 4,000 people die each year in the UK from conditions related to asbestos exposure, which has also been considered the leading cause of occupational ill health since the 1950s. As asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma take many years to reveal themselves following initial exposure, it is expected that the death rate will remain at a similar level until the end of the decade when the numbers should start to decline. The reason that this reduction is expected is due to the increased knowledge and research available to the construction industry as well as the general public regarding the dangers of asbestos. However, there is still much more awareness needed to safeguard those who are most at risk, namely construction workers.
A Brief History Of Asbestos
Asbestos was commonly used in homes that were built in the 1960s and 1970s. The strong fibres of this natural material are resistant to heat and chemicals which made it the perfect choice in building work. Brown asbestos was used in thermal insulation, while the blue variety was typically useful in spray coating and insulation lagging. However, as the number of mesothelioma cancer cases rose rapidly by the 1980s, legislation was introduced to require contractors to be licensed before working with this material. This was followed by banning blue and brown asbestos from being used in the mid-80s, and white asbestos was banned by 1992. All forms of asbestos were finally prohibited in 1999.
Contact With Asbestos
As so many existing homes in the UK were built during the ‘danger’ period from the 1960s to 1999, it is common for asbestos to be present in many properties. Therefore, when buildings are renovated or demolished, this poses a significant threat to anyone who comes into contact with the deadly material. If left undisturbed, then there should be no immediate threat to anyone’s health. However, asbestos is lethal when it is moved, as the tiny particles from the fibres become airborne and can easily be breathed in. Once in the lungs, there is no way to remove the asbestos fibres and no cure for any of the conditions that they will likely cause.
It is not just those in the immediate vicinity of the asbestos material that are at risk. Without adequate asbestos awareness training, construction workers could easily transport these fibres to another area of the building they are working in, putting other people in danger. The particles can also attach to the worker’s clothes, so can be transported home, putting the family of the construction worker and anyone else they come into contact with at risk.
General Health and Safety Legislation
The Control of Asbestos Regulations of 2006 safeguards all employers and workers within the construction industry. Employers must carry out an asbestos risk assessment before beginning any building project. A licence is usually required, and training is mandatory for anyone who is likely to work with asbestos during a project.
As the presence of asbestos will likely still be prevalent in British homes for many years to come, it is vital that construction companies learn from the heartbreaking mistakes that have occurred in the twentieth century and ensure that asbestos deaths are a thing of the past.