A leading authority for asbestos training provision in the UK, the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) is urging all public sector employees to be asbestos-aware in order to better manage the ‘ticking time-bomb’ in thousands of public buildings.
A lack of knowledge about the killer building material is putting workers and users of these buildings at risk of fatal lung cancers UKATA has warned.
Properties built or refurbished before the year 2000 may contain asbestos, particularly those built in the UK between the 1950s and 1980s. Despite being banned as a building material in 1999, asbestos causes around 5,000¹ deaths in the UK every year, giving us one of the highest rates of mesothelioma globally.
Asbestos is considered safe if not disturbed, however the lack of awareness of the dangers by users of buildings has turned it into one of the biggest threats to human health in recent years.
When disturbed, asbestos releases fibre dust particulates into the air which, when inhaled, can lead to asbestosis disease or fatal mesothelioma cancer of the lung linings.
More than 90% of NHS Trusts say that asbestos exists in their buildings and since 2001 more than 200 teachers have died across the country from asbestos related cancer.
- Children who are exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to contract mesothelioma than adults aged 30².
- Around half of people diagnosed with mesothelioma will be alive after a year, and only 1 in 10 after five years.
- Kent County Council was recently fined £200,000 after asbestos was disturbed in a primary school in Sittingbourne.
Craig Evans, UKATA Chief Operating Officer, explained: “Financially it is not always an option or necessary to remove asbestos from buildings which contain it. However, people need to be aware of the presence of it and more importantly how to manage it.
“School caretakers are a particular group at risk due to the nature of their work which involves undertaking minor repairs of school buildings. If asbestos is disturbed during such work, there is a risk that asbestos fibres will be released and create risk to others in the school.
“Asbestos awareness is critical and why we are calling on all employees within the public sector to receive asbestos awareness training.”
Described as a ‘ticking time-bomb’, the time between initial asbestos exposure and when a doctor accurately diagnoses an asbestos-related disease is anywhere from 15 - 60 years, known as the latency period.
Craig added: “As the effects of asbestos remain dormant for a number of years, people are unaware of the risk they have exposed themselves to until the symptoms present themselves and it is often too late. Being asbestos aware shouldn’t just be confined to the facility manager.
“Half day asbestos awareness courses, which are available from UKATA member companies throughout the UK are inexpensive and will save lives.”
To find a UKATA training provider in your area visit Find a Training Provider or call 01246 824437.
² Committee on Carcinogenicity - www.iacoc.org.uk/statements/documents/Asbestosinschoolsstatement_000.pdf