Construction workers warned about lung disease

Lung disease is a threat to construction workers

Every week construction workers in the UK are dying from lung disease because they have inhaled hazardous substances at work.

The seriousness of the situation prompted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to deliver an awareness campaign during recent weeks whilst its inspectors carried out health-related site inspections.

Construction workers have a high risk of developing lung diseases because many common construction tasks – such as cutting paving blocks, kerbs, flags and roof tiles, grinding, sweeping and cutting and sanding wood – can create high dust levels.

Regularly breathing in construction dust can cause diseases like lung cancerasthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and silicosis.

However, according to the HSE the biggest occupational risk to construction workers is asbestos which can lead to several different types of lung disease.

In fact, every year around 5,000 tradespeople in the UK – or 50 a week – die as a result of past exposure to asbestos.

How is asbestos connected with lung disease?

Asbestos is known to cause two types of cancer: mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer. Mesothelioma begins in the tissue mesothelium that lines the lungs, heart, stomach and other organs and exposure to asbestos is responsible in nine out of 10 cases.

Asbestos is also linked to other serious lung diseases such as asbestosis, which is a scarring of the lungs, and diffuse pleural thickening which is a thickening of the membrane surrounding the lungs.

The reason construction workers face a high risk of developing asbestos-related lung diseases is because asbestos was used so much by the UK construction industry in the 20th century.

The natural fibrous rock acts as an insulator which means it is great at keeping heat in and keeping the cold out. It also has impressive fire protection properties and protects against corrosion.

As a result, for decades it was a staple of the UK’s construction industry and can be found in many construction materials and fittings such as ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, boilers and sprayed coating.

The use of asbestos is now banned in this country but it can still be found in buildings here which were built before the year 2000.

If asbestos is well maintained and monitored by trained experts the health risks associated with it can be managed.

However, if asbestos is disturbed or damaged – for example if someone cuts or drills into it during construction work – it releases dangerous fibres into the air which can be inhaled and cause serious lung diseases.

The picture with this blog shows why asbestos continues to be dangerous to construction and maintenance workers today. It was taken by one our senior asbestos surveyors whilst he was working onsite a few days ago. What it shows is insulation debris and asbestos warning stickers swept into a corner of a boiler room.

With all that we now know about the dangers of asbestos, it’s shocking that we’re still finding these types of dangerous situations. In this case we’re just thankful that one of our trained surveyors – all of whom wear the correct protective clothing and equipment – made this discovery rather than someone who wouldn’t appreciate the danger. 

Can we protect construction workers from lung disease caused by asbestos?

The good news is there are things that can be done to protect construction workers from the dangers of asbestos.

Firstly, before any refurbishment, demolition or construction work begins, it’s important to find out if asbestos is present – and what state it is in – through an asbestos survey.

Owners or managers of non-domestic properties have a legal duty to manage asbestos and record its presence to manage the risk of exposure to themselves, their employees and others.

The results of the asbestos survey enables them to assess the risks and put in place any control measures which are needed.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 sets out what construction firms need to do to comply with the law. Failure to adhere to this can put workers and members of the public at risk and can leave companies, bosses and managers at risk of prosecution, huge fines and even prison sentences.

Where can I get help?

Managing asbestos on construction projects can be a daunting prospect because the risks associated with not doing this successfully are literally life-threatening.

At Acorn, we have more than 20 years of professional experience of effectively and efficiently managing asbestos. Our team works alongside businesses, authorities, schools and individuals to ensure people are protected from the dual threat of the dangers of asbestos and the danger of prosecution.

Our team can conduct a wide range of asbestos-related services, including thorough asbestos surveys, definitive air testing and UKAS accredited Asbestos Stage 4 Clearances.

So, whatever asbestos challenge you are facing, we can help you to overcome it and keep people safe.

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.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

Acorn Analytical Services is raising awareness of asbestos

Asbestos may be out of sight but it should never be out of mind

WITH construction methods advancing all the time its easy to think of asbestos as a building material which has long been consigned to the history books. Used extensively in post-war Britain, as a cheap building material known primarily for its fire-retardant properties, asbestos was central to the rebuilding of the UK used in many public … Read more

Asbestos management consultancy Acorn Analytical Services continues to grow

Asbestos management consultancy Acorn Analytical Services grows its team after successful start to 2024

THE start of the year has been a busy one for the team at asbestos management consultancy Acorn Analytical Services with a number of new clients coming on board. These are exciting times for Acorn – and as the business has continued to grow – so too has our team. Since Christmas, we’ve created 12 … Read more

The new senior leadership team at asbestos managment consultancy, Acorn Analytical Services. From left to right, Sian Stone, Sam Savage and Daniel Crask.

Three reasons why you should always #chooseacorn for all of your asbestos management needs

If you’re a regular visitor to our social media channels you’ll almost certainly have seen the hashtag #chooseacorn being used and maybe even wondered why. For Acorn Analytical Services these two words alone mark a real step change in the way we do business – representing a fresh start and a bolder, much more innovative … Read more

The new senior leadership team at asbestos management consultancy Acorn Analytical Services. From left to right, Steve McGlone, Andy Jackson and Simon Rodham.

Award-winning asbestos management consultancy starts 2024 with a new senior team

AWARD-WINNING asbestos management consultancy Acorn Analytical Services has announced a new senior leadership team to take the company into 2024 and beyond. After a record-breaking year which saw the company recognised for High Growth at the National SME Awards while taking on new clients and winning new business across the UK, Acorn Analytical Services, which … Read more

Ian Stone, director of asbestos management consultancy, Acorn Analytical Services

Let’s start 2024 in the right way – by getting rid of the dangers of asbestos for good

According to the latest data from the Health and Safety Executive 2,268 people died from asbestos-related mesothelioma in 2021 alone. It’s a shocking statistic, particularly when you consider that the use of asbestos in new buildings was banned in the UK in 1999 – more than 20 years ago. With Cancer Research UK confirming that … Read more

This Men's Health Month is time to talk about absestos

Men’s Health Month – it’s time to talk openly about asbestos

NOVEMBER marks Men’s Health Month – a time for shining the spotlight on the conditions and issues which affect men from all walks of life. While the focus quite rightly turns to serious health issues including Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer and mental health, at Acorn Analytical Services we want people to start talking about asbestos. … Read more

Asbestos consultancy Acorn Analytical Services will soon be moving into new offices

Have you heard the news? Asbestos consultancy Acorn Analytical Services Northampton is on the move

IF you haven’t heard the news already, we are delighted to announce that asbestos connsultancy Acorn Analytical Services Northampton will be starting a brand-new chapter very soon. In the coming days, our team will be moving to new – much larger – offices on Northampton’s Moulton Park, the place which has been our home for … Read more

asbestos in talcum powder

Unveiling the Hidden Danger: The Menace of Asbestos in Talcum Powder and the UK’s Stance

Explore the veiled danger of asbestos in talcum powder, the UK’s vigilant regulations, and the unfolding narrative of consumer safety. Dive into the rigorous testing methodologies, industry responses, and the promising horizon of international cooperation aiming to foster a safer landscape in the realm of personal care products.

RAAC and asbestos could be a problem in some buildings

Raac and ruin? How concrete crisis also raises the question of asbestos

A LOT has been said recently about Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) and asbestos. While fears about the safety of RAAC continue to dominate the headlines both nationally and locally, it is the additional threat from asbestos which we believe should be discussed now as a matter of urgency. Just as RAAC is crumbling in … Read more

Asbestos consultancy, Acorn Analytical Services, will be raising money for Mesothelioma UK

Asbestos consultancy gears up for 24-hour fundraising challenge

FOR many years the team at Acorn Analytical Services has been an avid supporter of Mesothelioma UK, the only charity in the UK dedicated to supporting people affected by this deadly disease. Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibres and shockingly still kills around 5,000 people each year in the UK – … Read more