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Twenty tradespeople per week die from asbestos exposure

The number of asbestos-related deaths is more than deaths from accidents at work

The number of tradespeople in the UK who die each week from work-related asbestos exposure now stands at 20 – far more than those who die through accidents at work.

Asbestos-related diseases claim over 100,000 lives around the world every year, and it is estimated it will have caused ten million deaths before it is fully controlled.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) launched the asbestos phase of the No Time to Lose (NTTL) campaign earlier this year. Despite knowing of its fatal properties since the late 1800s, asbestos was used prolifically by industry until it was banned in the UK in 1999. Exposure to asbestos is now one of the biggest contributors to occupational cancer, leaving construction workers at greatest risk of its deadly legacy.

Dr Jukka Takala, from the Workplace Safety and Health Institute in Singapore and President of the International Commission on Occupational Health, who revealed the toll of work-related lung cancers last year along with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland, said: “Latest estimates suggest as many as a quarter of a million lives may be lost every year to the work-related effects of exposure to asbestos.

“I have been pleased to support the IOSH No Time to Lose campaign over the past four years as it tackles the global burden of occupational cancer in a practical way by enlisting the support of companies, the occupational safety and health professionals who dedicate their working lives to the health and wellbeing of their colleagues, and transnational organisations like the International Commission on Occupational Health and the Workplace Safety and Health Institute in Singapore, to which I am affiliated.”

The Considerate Constructors’ Scheme is a supporter of the NTTL campaign and is committed to help raise awareness of the risks of asbestos exposure in the construction industry.

Edward Hardy, CCS chief executive, said: “We are delighted to support IOSH’s No Time To Lose campaign – anything that is done to help raise awareness of occupational cancers and the effective prevention programmes that can be introduced by employers will only improve the wellbeing of all involved.

“The construction industry is a dynamic and evolving sector and we must do all we can not only to make our working practices ever safer but also to improve the health and wellbeing of all those who work in our industry.

“Through the monitoring of the 8,000-plus sites currently registered with the Considerate Constructors Scheme, we will continue to raise awareness of initiatives such as this, as ultimately this can only lead to a far greater understanding of how we can best care for our workforce.”

To find out more about IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign and to get free resources to prevent exposure to asbestos, silica dust and diesel engine exhaust emissions, go to www.notimetolose.org.uk.