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Written by
on 26 June 2015

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Think Asbestos is Ancient History? Think Again!

asbestos dust signRecently, a London council found itself in court after it became apparent that they had been ignoring warnings about asbestos being in the Town Hall basement – since 1984!

What makes the story even more cringe-worthy is the fact that the presence of asbestos had been confirmed in 2002 – but never did anything about it. It was only when they used “asbestos contamination” as an excuse to hand over documents that they got caught out.

Shocking stuff.

Asbestos used to be in the headlines a lot – but just because you don’t hear about it as much, doesn’t mean that you can afford to turn a blind eye to its risks and dangers.

So what are the dangers – and what should you be looking out for?

What is asbestos?

Asbestos used to be used in construction for decades – it really caught on in the 19th century when Victorians figured out that it was a cheap and easy way to insulate buildings.

But it was only in the 20th century that people started to catch on to the fact that asbestos dust was incredibly harmful – in fact, it could cause cancer and other illnesses. So since 1999, it has been totally banned from use in the UK.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos can be really harmful because it can contaminate the air in the form of dust – you don’t need a huge amount of the stuff to be around for it to pose a serious risk to your health.

And it really is serious. Exposure to asbestos can lead to a range of diseases, including mesothelioma – a cancer that affects the lining of your chest and abdomen, lung cancer, asbestosis and more.

Find out more about the health dangers here – it makes for grim reading, but it just goes to show why you shouldn’t ignore it!

Who is most at risk?

The people most at risk are those that are going to be around the buildings where asbestos has been used. If you are working in construction or any related fields, then asbestos can be a major risk factor.

In fact, over 5000 people still die each year due to asbestos – that’s more than the number of people killed in road accidents. And 20 tradespeople die each week due to exposure.

Still think asbestos is ancient history? Think again!

So what should you do?

If you know that you’re going to be working somewhere where asbestos is a certain risk, then before commencing anything, you need to do a complete risk assessment first. Check out the HSE site for a comprehensive list of what you need to think about in your risk assessment.

Once that’s done, make sure that you have appropriate personal protective clothing before you start working. And if you come across asbestos unexpectedly, you should definitely stop all work until the dangers are properly assessed!

Your takeaway points

  • Asbestos was used in the construction industry until the late ‘90s, so it can still pose a risk
  • It can pose serious health dangers – including the risk of developing cancers and other diseases
  • The people most at risk are those working in buildings where asbestos may be present – and over 5000 people are killed by asbestos exposure every year
  • You should not work in a place where asbestos is a risk, without doing a proper risk assessment first.

Have you had to deal with asbestos-related dangers? What are your concerns? Let us know!

About 

Chartered health and safety consultant. 20+ years helping busy people in construction and the built environment. David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to help explain and make compliance easier for clients. A solutionist with a brain you can pick. And you can easily get in touch with David on social media Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

Chartered health and safety consultant. 20+ years helping busy people in construction and the built environment. David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to help explain and make compliance easier for clients. A solutionist with a brain you can pick. And you can easily get in touch with David on social media Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

3 Comments
  • Asbestos hazards give enough reasons for anyone to stay complacent especially when threat of exposure remains. The war against asbestos isn’t over and property owners should be challenged to assess safety and implement proper measures.

  • justin says:

    Every one thinks , If there is no accidents , that the company has a good health and safety management system like that . But the company has to concentrate on health hazards like safety hazards . Many of the hazardous substances are still non identifiable . Thanks to sharing useful Info.

  • It is really a great work and the way in which you are sharing the knowledge is excellent. Thanks for your informative article

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