Asbestos: 23% of construction workers exposed

Nearly one in four British construction workers believe they have been exposed to asbestos fibres, according to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

The survey, published yesterday by IOSH to coincide with the launch of its latest No Time To Lose occupational cancer campaign, revealed nearly a quarter (23%) of building workers believe they have been exposed to the toxic material.

The survey also found 59% of workers said they have been informed about the risks of working with asbestos, and this been reinforced regularly with training, although 15% said they have never been informed.Asbestos risks

Around a third of construction workers have never checked the asbestos register before starting work on a new site.

And just under one in five (18%) said if they found asbestos they would be unsure or have no idea of what to do.

Asbestos exposure – unacceptable

The president of IOSH, Craig Foyle, said the survey results, published on 9 April, show that not enough is being done to protect construction workers.

“Asbestos is banned in the UK and other countries for a good reason: it is dangers. It is staggering to see how many people die from exposure to asbestos every year,” said Mr Foyle.

“It is unacceptable, therefore, for anyone in any workplace to be exposed to asbestos. Clearly, though, people are being exposed to it. In the decades to come, it is likely that these people and their families will still be suffering unless we all do something about it.

“We are calling on everyone, including employers, do to the right thing; to protect the people who work for them. IOSH has an array of resources designed to assist employers to put measures in place, which protect their workforce.”

Deeply worrying

The chair of the UK’s Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, Dr Lesley Rushton, added: “What these new survey results confirm is that, while people have heard of asbestos and know what the effects of being exposed to it are, they’re not sure how to check if it’s present and they may now know what to do if they find asbestos.

“Uncertainty and ignorance surrounding how to prevent workers from breathing in the fibres is deeply worrying.”