This week's guest article is by the British Lung Foundation and describes their campaign to highlight the dangers of asbestos, which is of particular importance to our SME supplier members.
The British Lung Foundation (BLF) has launched ‘Take 5 and Stay Alive’, a major campaign intended to raise awareness of the real dangers of asbestos amongst subcontractors and trades people.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – during an average week in the UK, twenty tradesmen (six electricians, four plumbers and eight joiners) die from exposure to asbestos, which makes it the largest cause of work related fatalities.
In the UK, various forms of asbestos had been sequentially banned since 1985 (initially blue crocidolite and brown amosite), but there was no a blanket ban on import and use of all forms until 1999. As a result, any build which had been built or renovated before 2000 could, potentially, contain asbestos – of one form or another.
HSE research has highlighted there is a worrying lack of information about asbestos and training amongst small employers and sole traders. Most SMEs and sole traders don’t see asbestos as a major threat nor do they raise concerns in case they lose work.
Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause a range of illnesses, including the terminal chest cancer mesothelioma. The UK has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma because it took so long to outright ban asbestos use.
Unfortunately, asbestos fibre particles are small, practically invisible and easily stick to clothing. As a result trades people exposed to asbestos can unwittingly putting their family members, colleagues and friends at risk by spreading these fibres.
The British Lung Foundation’s “Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign” aims to make sure trades people have the knowledge to act safely and responsibly. It also ensures they can spot asbestos and establish which type it is. Then assess whether they have the level of training and equipment required to deal with it in a safely manner.
"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 trades people 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 husband's contaminated overalls.
"Our Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to give trades people 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. "