Asbestos Awareness in the Construction Industry – Room for Improvement

Asbestos Awareness in the Construction Industry – Room for Improvement

23rd April 2018

One of our recent news reports revealed the shocking extent to which asbestos was used in the construction of schools in the UK and the fact that the Department for Education’s survey on school buildings failed to get enough information to address the problem.  A second survey is underway in order to gather all the data necessary to gain a clear idea of which schools contain asbestos in order to formulate a plan to deal with this, prioritising the schools which contain asbestos in the most dangerous conditions.  As we pointed out, this will eventually require the involvement of construction companies which are qualified to remove and dispose of asbestos, which could be an opportunity for construction companies who have staff qualified to deal with the problem.

The first week in April was the 14th Annual Global Asbestos Awareness Week (GAAW), a week-long event dedicated to awareness and prevention.  In the wake of the GAAW, it’s been reported that a massive 23% of British construction workers believe they’ve been exposed to asbestos fibres (according to the results of a recent survey undertaken by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health – IOSH).   The good news is that 59% of workers say they’ve been informed about the risks of working with asbestos and this has been regularly reinforced with training. 

However, a worrying 15% of workers claim they have not been informed about asbestos risks and a third of workers revealed that they never check the asbestos register before starting work on a new site.  Moreover, 18% of respondents disclosed that they would be unsure or have no idea of what to do if they found asbestos whilst working?  This has resulted in the president of IOSH stating that not enough is being done to protect UK construction workers.  Although the survey revealed that most people have heard of asbestos and the risks it poses, too many are not sure how to check if it’s present and what to do when asbestos is discovered.  Over the coming weeks, we’re going to be bringing our readers as much information as possible on asbestos with a view to ensuring that they are better informed on the subject in a bid to play our part in making the UK construction industry a safer sector in which to work.

With asbestos enjoying such widespread use over so many years, buildings in the UK are likely to contain asbestos in several places, including:

  • Pipe insulation
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Asbestos cement sheeting
  • Sprayed and textured coatings (especially on walls and ceilings)
  • Soffit boards
  • Boards around windows, fireplaces and radiators
  • Boilers
  • Gaskets and sealants on pipes
  • Electrical boxes
  • Fire doors

This means that we have a ticking time bomb in the UK as far as asbestos is concerned and those of us who work in the construction industry need to be aware of the risks associated with asbestos and what we can do to protect ourselves, our families and our employees.  Home owners will need to educate themselves about asbestos - where you’re likely to find it and what to do when you do find it.  Commercial premises are covered by strict regulations which require the duty holder to manage asbestos in a controlled manner (which we will cover in the coming weeks).  Make sure you don’t miss out on any of this information by following us on Facebook or Twitter. Don't forget about our product which can keep employees safe, such as our fall protection post!