Greater asbestos awareness training needed

The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) has encouraged all public sector employees to be asbestos-aware in order to better manage the ‘ticking time-bomb’ in thousands of public buildings.

The association says that a lack of knowledge concerning the dangerous building material is putting workers and users of these buildings at risk of fatal lung cancers, with asbestos responsible for approximately 5,000 deaths in the UK every year.

Considered safe if not disturbed, asbestos is commonly found in properties built or refurbished before the year 2000. However, when disturbed, asbestos releases fibre dust particulates into the air which, when inhaled, can lead to asbestosis disease or fatal mesothelioma cancer of the lung linings.

More than 90 per cent of NHS trusts say that asbestos exists in their buildings and since 2001 more than 200 teachers have died across the country from asbestos related cancer. Kent County Council was recently fined £200,000 after asbestos was disturbed in a primary school in Sittingbourne.

Craig Evans, UKATA chief operating officer, explained: “Financially it is not always an option or necessary to remove asbestos from buildings which contain it. However, people need to be aware of the presence of it and more importantly how to manage it. School caretakers are a particular group at risk due to the nature of their work which involves undertaking minor repairs of school buildings. If asbestos is disturbed during such work, there is a risk that asbestos fibres will be released and create risk to others in the school. Asbestos awareness is critical and why we are calling on all employees within the public sector to receive asbestos awareness training.”