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Death of a tradesman: Fatal figures rise

Every week brings the death of 20 tradesmen from asbestos-related diseases - and this figure is rising, according to the Health and Safety Executive.
Exposure to asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths, with around 4,000 people a year dying from asbestos-related disease. Every year 1,000 of the 4,000 now dying are tradesmen and while the number of deaths in other industries has plateaued, the number of deaths in trades continues to rise.

The total number of deaths is rising because large numbers of workers were exposed to asbestos dust around 40 years ago and are going on to develop the terminal cancer mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

HSE Inspector Nic Rigby said: 'Research shows that many workers, particularly tradesmen, think that they are not personally at risk of exposure to asbestos and the diseases it can cause. They think that, since asbestos was banned many years ago, the problem has been dealt with and therefore it is not relevant to them. The reality is very different'.

He added 'Asbestos presents a real and relevant risk to plumbers, joiners, electricians and many other maintenance workers. Asbestos may be present in any building constructed or refurbished before the year 2000, and it is estimated that around 500,000 non-domestic buildings could contain asbestos. These buildings all need repair and maintenance work from time to time and when the asbestos fibres are disturbed e.g. by drilling or cutting, they are likely to be inhaled as a deadly dust.'

Those responsible for managing building maintenance and repair of non-domestic buildings, have a duty to inform tradesmen if asbestos is present in a building they are working in. Asbestos sprayed coatings, board or lagging on pipes and boilers – should only be tackled by licensed workers.

Building materials supplier Jewson is backing the HSE’s campaign to cut the rising death rate amongst tradesmen by warning them of the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Kevin Crawley, health and safety director at Jewson said: 'Regular contact with thousands of people in the trade every day, through a network of 500 branches across the UK, ensures Jewson is ideally placed to help get the message out to those who are likely to come into contact with the material”

'Asbestos: The Hidden Killer' campaign literature is available from Jewson branches and the HSE’s free information pack highlights where asbestos-containing materials may be present in buildings, what they look like, how they should be dealt with and where asbestos training can be found.

For a free asbestos information pack call 0845 345 0055
2 December 2008


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