Asbestos deaths still rising in trades

It kills 20 tradesmen a week and more than 4,000 people a year - more than the number of deaths from road accidents - but many workers are still unaware of the dangers of asbestos.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a nationwide campaign highlighting the risks faced by tradesmen in a bid to cut the rising number of deaths from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

The Asbestos: The Hidden Killer Campaign will try to raise awareness of the widespread existence of asbestos.

Figures from the HSE have shown that a quarter of those who die every year are tradesmen such as plumbers, joiners and electricians.

Although the number of deaths in traditional industries has plateaued, deaths in trades are still rising – a trend which the HSE blames on ignorance that asbestos is still present in many buildings.

It is estimated that about 500,000 non-domestic buildings in the UK constructed or refurbished before 2000 could contain asbestos.

Steve Coldrick, disease reduction director at the HSE, said: “Exposure to asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths, with around 4,000 people a year dying from asbestos-related disease.”

The campaign is being backed by the British Lung Foundation. Jill Morrell, the charity’s head of public affairs, said: “The HSE campaign is vital because research shows that only one in ten tradesmen know that exposure to asbestos can prove fatal.

“The asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, is a cruel disease which as yet has no cure. We must do all we can to stop more people dying from this preventable disease.”

Asbestos surveyors Redhill Analysts are also supporting the campaign. Managing director Daniel Roebuck said: “We fully back the HSE campaign in highlighting the dangers of asbestos and hope to see a reduction in asbestos-related diseases in the future.”

The campaign follows a trial earlier this year targeting north west England (see related story).

The campaign website can be found here.

Kate Martin

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