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October 9, 2014

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HSE survey: shocking ignorance of asbestos risk

A new survey commissioned by HSE and based on interviews with 500 tradespeople reveals that many are ignorant of the risks posed by asbestos.

One of the headline findings in the survey, carried out by Censuswide in September 2014, was that 14 per cent of respondents believed that drinking a glass of water would help protect them from the deadly dust. Twenty seven per cent of those asked thought that opening a window would help keep them safe.

Equally worrying, only 30 per cent of those surveyed were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working, while 57 per cent made at least one potentially lethal mistake in trying to identify how to stay safe.

The findings raise serious concerns, especially in light of the fact that tradespeople, including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators, could come into contact with the deadly asbestos on average more than 100 times a year.

HSE figures reveal that 20 tradespeople, on average, die every week from asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos can be found in walls and ceilings, or the structure of a building, as well as a host of other places like floor tiles, boilers, toilet cisterns, guttering and soffits.

Basic maintenance work like drilling holes and sanding can disturb it and the lethal microscopic fibres have been linked to lung disease and cancer.

Censuswide’s research reveals that while 53 per cent of respondents knew that asbestos could be in old buildings built before 1970, only 15 per cent knew that it could still be found in buildings built up to 2000.

In a drive to raise awareness of dangers faced by the 1.3 million tradespeople at risk, HSE has launched a new safety campaign to improve preparations for dealing with asbestos.

Launched by Mark Harper, the minister responsible for health and safety, at the TradePoint store in Cricklewood, the campaign features a new web app for phones, tablets and laptops that should help tradespeople easily identify where they could come into contact with the material and advice on how to deal with the risks.

TradePoint is supporting the campaign by distributing free asbestos safety kits through its stores.

Mr Harper said: “The number dying every year from asbestos-related diseases is unacceptably high. Despite being banned in the construction industry, asbestos exposure remains a very serious risk to tradespeople.

“This safety campaign is about highlighting the risks and easy measures people can take to protect themselves. We hope the safety kits and the web app will encourage people to be aware of the risks, think twice, and take precautions to be safe.”


To download the app:

More asbestos safety at:


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