Asbestos in the workplace is a killer

Asbestos in the workplace can kill if it is not managed properly.

At Acorn Analytical Services, we are all too well aware that asbestos in the workplace can kill if it is not managed properly.

This Sunday, our staff – along with millions of other people across the UK – will stop what they’re doing and observe a minute’s silence to mark National Workplace Day of Remembrance and remember all those workers who have died due to asbestos-related diseases.

This annual event was established two years ago to remember all those who have died whilst trying to support their families and our economy.

Every year on 12th December, organisations of all sizes and from all sectors are asked to observe the silence at midday to pay their respects and workers in buildings with flagpoles are asked to fly the Union Flag at half-mast.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asbestos kills around 5,000 workers each year – more than the number of people killed on the road.

Every year on average there are around 2,500 deaths from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in Great Britain which are attributed to occupational disease.

Asbestos in the workplace is also known to cause other serious conditions which can affect the lungs, including the cancer mesotheliomaasbestosis and pulmonary fibrosis.

Who is most at risk from asbestos in the workplace?

Those most at risk from exposure to asbestos in the workplace are construction workers, home renovators, demolition crews, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, firefighters, maintenance workers, industrial workers such as mechanics, foremen, machinery operators and chemical workers, power plant workers and shipyard workers.

However, anyone who is working in a building which was built before 2000 could be at risk. This is because any building built before this date may contain asbestos.

To keep workers safe, an asbestos survey should be carried out to identify if and where asbestos is located. Once asbestos is located it should be monitored and effectively managed to make sure it doesn’t put anyone in danger.

If people aren’t aware of the presence of asbestos the consequences can be tragic.

For example, it may come as a surprise to many people but since 1980 at least 363 school teachers have died from mesothelioma, 249 of those since 2001.

According to the National Education Union (NEU), school teachers are now dying from mesothelioma at an average rate of 19 per year, up from three per year in 1980. Since 1980 at least 165 higher and further education teaching professionals have died of mesothelioma.

This is because materials containing asbestos can often be found all around educational establishments in floor and ceiling tiles, pipework, window frames, insulation boards, cement, plaster, roofing and boiler insulation.

One of the reasons that we are seeing school teachers dying from asbestos-related diseases stems from them simply putting up displays on noticeboards that contained asbestos.

When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air and can be inhaled. It is these fibres which cause asbestos-related cancers and other diseases.

How can we protect people from asbestos in the workplace?

As we’ve said the first step is to have an asbestos survey. If you’re not having work done but want to find out if your property contains asbestos you should have an asbestos management survey.

A management survey is generally the first step you take towards safely managing asbestos in your building. It includes the sampling of suspected asbestos materials and it only causes a small amount of intrusion.

It will generally include a visual inspection of ceilings, walls, floors, accessible ducts, service risers and lofts.

Once you have identified where asbestos is you can begin to manage it safely and take appropriate action to make sure it is not damaged or disturbed.

How is Acorn protecting people from the dangers of asbestos in the workplace?

Our highly trained professionals work with organisations of all sizes and from all sectors to manage their asbestos and ensure their workers are kept safe and the organisations themselves are not prosecuted for breaking asbestos laws.

We produce educational podcasts, have released an informative book called Asbestos The Dark Arts and offer free 30-minute asbestos review surgeries to help organisations find out what they need to do to comply with UK law.

Earlier this year on World Teachers’ Day, we also launched a hard-hitting campaign targeting the issue of asbestos in schools.

To start with, the campaign is focusing on the city of Birmingham where we have one of our bases and where several of our employees live and work. The city has also hit the headlines numerous times in recent years after it emerged that more than 80 per cent of council-run schools in Birmingham may contain asbestos.

We have highlighted the issue with leading politicians and education unions, secured media coverage to promote greater awareness of the situation and are offering all headteachers in Birmingham a free asbestos audit for their school. All they have to do, is call Acorn on 0844 818 0895.

How can you help mark National Workplace Day of Remembrance?

If you can, stop for a minute at midday on Sunday to mark National Workplace Day of Remembrance.

However, one of the most fitting tributes you could pay to those who have lost their lives whilst serving our economy is to ensure that no one at your workplace is at risk from asbestos.

It shouldn’t just be left to company bosses and managers – all of us have a duty to raise awareness about asbestos.

If you’re not sure if your workplace contains asbestos, ask the question. If your organisation hasn’t carried out an asbestos survey then ask your employer to arrange one.

You could prevent your company from being prosecuted for breaking asbestos law. You could stop your organisation from being heavily fined or a colleague from being given a custodial sentence. Even more importantly you could save someone’s life.

If you need help, call our expert team today.

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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