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Asbestos safety: what you need to know as a tradesperson!

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Asbestos Safety – even though asbestos was banned in 1999, the substance remains an extremely dangerous presence in our older buildings. It has the potential to cause life-changing and terminal disease, which is why asbestos safety is an important part of everyday working life as a tradesperson.

If you work in the trades the chances are you’ll come into contact with asbestos at some point, but there are so many construction-related trades it can potentially affect the health of huge numbers of people.

Why is asbestos safety vital for tradespeople?

Asbestos was widely used in construction to fireproof and insulate commercial, industrial, and residential buildings. It can be present in various forms, including spray coatings, cement products, textiles, and boarding, so you’re likely to come across the substance at some point if you work on properties that were built before 2000.

Statistics published in a 2018 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report show asbestos still causes over 5,000 deaths in this country.¹

  • 2,595 from mesothelioma in 2016
  • A similar number linked to asbestos-related lung cancer
  • 500 asbestosis deaths

With figures unlikely to drop until the next decade, it’s vital for tradespeople to take asbestos safety seriously. But what can happen if you come across asbestos or asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) during your working day?

Asbestos safety at work

When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or start to degrade they can release microscopic fibres that are easily inhaled. Breathing in asbestos fibres is known to set up serious health conditions in later life, sometimes several decades after the initial exposure.

Typically, no symptoms are experienced until a late stage, which makes asbestos-related diseases such as mesothlioma very difficult to treat. The recent mortality rates above show how serious asbestos exposure can be, and why you need to prioritise asbestos safety.   

Putting safety first when you come into contact with asbestos

The message from the Health and Safety Executive is to leave asbestos materials untouched if you encounter them at work, or you come across materials that you suspect could contain asbestos.

Being able to identify asbestos in all its forms, therefore, is crucial, and asbestos training can help in this respect. Asbestos awareness training teaches you about different types of asbestos, their properties, effects on health, and likely locations within a building.

It’s intended to help you avoid work that could bring you into contact with the substance, or be able to identify it so you don’t disturb asbestos-containing materials if they’re encountered unexpectedly.

Acorn Analytical Services offers UKATA asbestos awareness training to help you stay safe at work. We prioritise asbestos safety for all tradespeople, helping to reduce the chances of accidentally disturbing asbestos at work and breathing in the fibres. For more information on this and any other asbestos-related issue, please contact one of our highly trained consultants.   

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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