The fact that 40% of workers insisted that they had not been informed of asbestos risks has to be taken in some context. I have seen some very questionable site communications in 15 years of working in the asbestos industry, and in that sense could easily see why some workers had the misfortune to work for employers who placed little value on their health and safety obligations. Saying that, I have also seen some excellent employers going beyond simply what is classed as the minimum demanded by legisation and regulation, much to be lauded.
A commentator from construction industry publication Construction News stated that, “Part of the reason for this ignorance seems to be rooted in the idea that asbestos is an old problem, with the substance being banned for use in new buildings in 1999.” I agree, I have indeed heard site staff discuss asbestos with incredulity, “does it really still exist” they ask? Indeed it does, and with between 4,000 and 5,000 people dying still asbestos exposure every year, being asbestos aware represents today a huge challenge for the UK construction industry inparticular, but also for all those who have responsibility for, access to, or engagement with, most buildings built before 2000. Whilst it remains the case that many sufferers were exposed decades ago, with asbestos widely used in lagging, insulation boards, fibre concrete, tiles, gaskets and other products, there are still more than half a million commercial and public buildings containing asbestos in the UK, plus possibly double the amount of domestic properties. Paul Fox – Director of Business Development, Amiante STR