Asbestos still largest cause of work-related fatalities

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Asbestos remains the largest single cause of workplace-related deaths, with the latest Health and Safety Executive annual statistical report revealing that at least 4,500 people die from conditions related to the substance each year.

It showed that in 2011 (the most recent year that figures are available for), there were 2,291 mesothelioma deaths and a similar number of lung cancer fatalities caused by past exposure to asbestos, along with 429 asbestosis deaths.

The annual number of fatalities linked to asbestos is predicted to continue growing until 2020, largely due to the widespread exposure to the substance in the construction industry in the past.

Workplace safety regulations have been significantly tightened up in recent years and exposure to asbestos fibres on such a large scale is unlikely to happen in the future, but the substance was a standard building material from the 1950s to the 1980s and was still being used as late as 1999, so it remains a real danger to tradesmen and demolition workers.

All businesses and owners of non-domestic properties must now comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 in order to safeguard workers and the general public from exposure to the deadly substance.

Among the dutyholder requirements included in the regulations are to identify whether the building has any asbestos containing materials, to assess the risk from them and to implement a plan to manage that risk.

The regulations also include restrictions on who can carry out work with asbestos, meaning businesses and property owners need to use a licensed contractor for asbestos removal, all work with asbestos lagging and sprayed asbestos coatings, and most jobs involving asbestos insulation and asbestos insulating board.

For more information about asbestos management surveys, encapsulation and removal, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 4th December 2013