High risk of asbestos exposure for UK construction workers

IOSHLogo

According to a survey by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), “Nearly one in four UK construction workers believe they may have been exposed to asbestos fibres.”

Asbestos has only been banned in the UK since 1999, and the high number of older buildings being demolished or renovated plus the nature of the work they’re involved in, makes the danger for anyone involved in construction very significant.

Are workers in all sectors of construction in danger from asbestos?

Many skilled trades are connected to the construction industry, from demolition and building workers to the plumbers, electricians, and telecoms engineers who are present on-site at different times throughout a construction project.

The extensive reach of asbestos is clear to see, but are all the necessary controls being put in place by construction companies to protect the health of their workers?

Asbestos registers, regular employee training, and asbestos refurbishment and demolition surveys, are just a few of the safeguards that protect employee health, and help to prevent future work-related cancers.

Do construction workers fully understand the risks posed by asbestos?

One of the issues raised by the IOSH research, which surveyed 500 construction workers in the UK, was the lack of awareness of asbestos, and its subsequent danger to health.

Here are some of the most significant findings:

  • Although 59% of those surveyed were aware of asbestos risks and received ongoing training, 15% said they hadn’t been informed of the dangers posed by asbestos
  • 32% of construction workers had never checked an asbestos register prior to a new project commencing, and 15% of these didn’t know that a register existed
  • 18% of respondents said they either didn’t know what to do if they uncovered asbestos at work, or weren’t sure what they should do

These results reveal some major workplace health issues, and highlight the fact that being aware of the dangers of this carcinogenic substance are fundamental to health and safety for construction workers everywhere.

More needs to be done to protect people from asbestos

The President of IOSH, Craig Foyle, commented that greater protection from asbestos is needed, not only for construction workers but also for those in other industries,

“We are calling on everyone, including employers, to do the right thing; to protect the people who work for them. IOSH has an array of resources designed to assist employers put measures in place which protect their workforce.”

The removal and disposal of asbestos can only legally be carried out by licensed contractors, and if the substance is encountered on-site, it must not be disturbed. If you’re involved in a demolition or refurbishment project and need a survey, or would like more information on asbestos, please contact one of our highly trained asbestos 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.

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

It's estimated about 20% of the population of England and Wales use water supplies that have passed though asbestos cement pipework.

How safe are our water supplies from asbestos?

A few weeks ago, we read an interesting editorial about concerns that water supplies in America and Canada may contain asbestos. The opinion piece appeared in The Altamont Enterprise in Albany County, New York, and was called We shouldn’t play Russian roulette with our water supply. It raised concerns about a water main break in … Read more

Are you doing everything you can be to be asbestos-safe?

20 years after the use of asbestos was banned in the UK will we ever be asbestos-safe?

Have you ever considered if the UK will ever be asbestos-safe? Here at Acorn Analytical Services we are regularly asked by clients and friends if we think there is enough asbestos left in the country to see us out. Sadly, the answer is yes and not just us but generations to come. Any building built … Read more

Acorn Analytical Services director Ian Stone has worked in the asbestos industry for 20 years.

Acorn director has spent 20 years in asbestos industry fighting hidden killer

This month it is 20 years since Acorn Analytical Services director Ian Stone first entered the asbestos industry. We caught up with Ian to find out how his career in the asbestos industry began and what changes he has seen along the way. Ian, what made you want to join the asbestos industry? When I … Read more

How often do you wonder if you’re at risk from asbestos at home?

Is asbestos at home a worry for you?

How often do you wonder if you’re at risk from asbestos at home?  It’s probably not something that many people think about in their daily lives but frighteningly homes up and down the UK are riddled with asbestos. Asbestos can be found in a surprisingly high number of places throughout our homes, including in ceilings, … Read more

If you are embarking on a building or renovation project contact a professional team of asbestos experts before work gets underway.

Asbestos experts save lives

A court case in recent weeks has highlighted once again why it is so important to turn to asbestos experts before you start any type of building work. Salisbury Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 8 September 2018, Robert Angell undertook work to remove asbestos-containing material (ACM) while renovating a pub in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. An investigation … Read more

Asbestos in schools remains a problem in the UK

Should we be worried about asbestos in schools?

Earlier this year we launched a hard-hitting campaign to raise awareness about the issue of asbestos in schools. Shockingly, in some of our cities and towns, more than 80% of schools have an asbestos problem and every year hundreds of people die here after being exposed to asbestos in schools as children. There have also … Read more

Working from home gives organisations the chance to find out if their workplace contains asbestos

Use working from home time to tackle the worry of asbestos

As millions of workers return to working from home this week to curb the spread of Covid-19 did you know this could be one of your best opportunities to make your workplace safer? It may come as a surprise to a lot of people but asbestos is actually the world’s biggest workplace killer. We’ve made … Read more

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

Asbestos in the workplace is a killer

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 … Read more

If you or your staff are working in the vicinity of asbestos and you fail to wear RPE correctly the consequences could be severe.

The dangers of not wearing RPE correctly

Being out on the frontline helping organisations to manage their asbestos safely means we’re no strangers to wearing RPE. For anyone who doesn’t know RPE stands for Respiratory Protective Equipment and it comes in two main types – respirators and breathing apparatus. RPE is one of the most essential pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) … Read more

Lung disease is a threat to construction workers

Construction workers warned about lung disease

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 … Read more