This week is Global Asbestos Awareness Week (1-7 April 2021). UKNAR (UK National Asbestos Register) is urging installers to ‘REGISTER THE DANGER’ when it comes to the prevention of exposure to deadly asbestos fibres. Asbestos remains a very real and present threat to life, despite it being banned from UK construction in 1999.
Alarmingly, one in three construction workers say they have never seen an asbestos register (IOSH report 2018). UKNAR’s own research in the last 12 months has revealed that when tradespeople do get see a register, it is often not easily comprehensible. One builder also openly admitted they’d given up asking for the asbestos register on arrival to some school sites because no one knew where it was and they just needed to get the job done.
Where asbestos is present today
Although asbestos is a banned building material in the UK, it remains lurking in 500,000 UK workplaces, schools, hospitals and over a million homes. So, despite improved legislation it is not surprising there continues to be thousands of accidental disturbances and potentially lethal exposures every year. Asbestos can be found in a huge range of building materials from reinforced plastic to paint, spray coatings, lagging, insulation boards, fibre cement, floors tiles, bitumen felts, as well as in mastics, sealants, putties and adhesives. It is easy to dislodge asbestos whilst drilling, hammering and carrying out basic tasks.
UK occupational asbestos deaths
The HSE figures show 20 tradespeople die from asbestos-related disease every week. Asbestos remains the biggest occupational cancer killer, claiming at least 107,000 lives a year worldwide. In Britain 5,000 people die each year from work-related asbestos exposures, some as early as their forties. OSHA states there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres. Asbestos really is a matter of life and death.
Protect tomorrow’s professional trades
Asbestos is a ‘silent killer’. Once you have breathed it in, it will probably lay dormant for many years. People can fall ill in later life from asbestos-related cancer and debilitating lung disease, following a chance exposure to asbestos in their early career. Mesothelioma is a particularly unpleasant asbestos cancer with the highest fatality rate (93%) of all the common cancers. It is vital that asbestos awareness training and education continues to be delivered to our younger tradespeople and that they are properly aware of the risks when they are starting out.
Register the danger – be Asbestos SMART
UKNAR CIC is a new social enterprise trying to get the message home and help everyone in a simple, low-cost way. UKNAR’s Asbestos SMART system has been developed to allow 24/7 access to the UK National Asbestos Register just by using a smartphone. Our aim is that everyone who needs to see an asbestos register can instantly access the latest Asbestos SMART register for the site where they are working.
This can be simply done by scanning a unique site-specific QR code. It is quick, efficient, contactless – ideal for today’s world. You can carry the register and the plans around the building as you work. The technology is directly aimed at protecting on-site trades who are most at risk of coming into contact with asbestos in managed properties.
In well managed buildings, the Asbestos SMART register should be clearly presented as part of the on-site visitor check-in procedure. This gives instant visibility of where asbestos is known in the property before work is started, helping to eliminate the risk of accidental disturbance.
UKNAR is encouraging all professional trades to think carefully this week during Global Asbestos Awareness Week (and beyond) about the very real risks and dangers. Every tradesperson needs to see an asbestos register when they arrive on-site at managed premises before they start work. You can help to register the danger by asking if the site has an Asbestos SMART register. It is the duty holder’s responsibility to ensure all contractors and building occupiers are informed of the presence of asbestos if their activities could be likely to cause any disturbance. However, ultimately it is your responsibility to protect yourselves – by asking for that register!
- Every week, 20 tradespeople die from asbestos-related disease (HSE).
- One in three construction workers have never seen an asbestos register (IOSH).
- 5,000 people die from asbestos related exposure in Britain very year (IOSH).
To learn more about asbestos and how to stay safe, and to watch the Asbestos SMART explainer video, visit uknar.org/asbestos-smart/introducing-asbestos-smart