Running between 1 – 7 April annually, Global Asbestos Awareness Week (GAAW) aims to raise awareness around the dangers of asbestos and to bring experts and victims together to share, learn and act. The week is dedicated to educating people about both the risk of asbestos and how to manage it to prevent asbestos-related diseases.
Imported into the UK from countries such as Canada and South Africa, asbestos started to be widely used in the Industrial Revolution during the late 1800’s as insulation due to its heat and chemical resistance. Furthermore, it was a cheap commodity post World War II and was used to rebuild Britain.
Although banned in the UK in 1999, asbestos can be found in the fabric of many buildings and was thought to be used in more than 4,000 products, mixed with other materials. Therefore, making it almost impossible to detect.
Common products that contain asbestos includes sprayed coatings on ceilings and walls, asbestos insulating board, vinyl floor tiles, loose fill insulation, textured decorative coatings and pipe lagging.
The latest statistics published by HSE in 2020 show that there are over 5,000 asbestos-related deaths every year in the UK, including around 20 tradespeople every week, making it the single biggest cause of work-related deaths. These figures include builders, joiners, plumbers, electricians, and interior contactors.
Chief Operating Officer of UKATA, Craig Evans stated “We still have a long way to go to tackle the global issue. Asbestos was banned in the United Kingdom in 1999, but over 1.5 million buildings in the UK alone may still contain asbestos. It’s crucial that we spread and raise awareness around the dangers of asbestos to hopefully lower the number of deaths.”
It is vital that any person who may potentially come in to contact with asbestos in their day-to-day work, must legally receive the correct level of information, instruction, and training to keep themselves and colleagues safe.
Throughout the week, UKATA will be raising awareness on social media and inviting members and industry associates nationwide to get involved in promoting the dangers of asbestos and the diseases caused by asbestos exposure.