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9 October 2014, 07:15
Construction workers and tradespeople including carpenters and painters could come into contact with asbestos more than 100 times a year, with few knowing whether the deadly dust is in newer buildings, according to a report.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a new safety campaign amid concerns of confusion on how to combat exposure to asbestos.
With 20 people dying every week from asbestos-related diseases, the HSE revealed some common myths, such as drinking water or opening a window to keep workers safe.
A survey of 500 tradespeople showed that fewer than a third could identify the correct measures for safe asbestos working, while only 15% knew that the dust could still be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.
Fewer than one in five knew that asbestos could be hidden in toilet seats and cisterns.
Health and safety minister Mark Harper said: "The number dying every year from asbestos-related diseases is unacceptably high. Despite being banned in the construction industry, asbestos exposure remains a very serious risk to tradespeople. This safety campaign is about highlighting the risks and easy measures people can take to protect themselves.''
Philip White, HSE's chief inspector for construction, said: "Asbestos is still a very real danger and the survey findings suggest that the people who come into contact with it regularly often don't know where it could be and worryingly don't know how to deal with it correctly, which could put them in harm's way.
"Our new campaign aims to help tradespeople understand some of the simple steps they can take to stay safe. Our new web app is designed for use on a job so workers can easily identify if they are likely to face danger and can then get straightforward advice to help them do the job safely.''
Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said "Construction workers are the greatest risk of being exposed to asbestos. Any campaign that warns workers of the dangers of asbestos is to be welcomed. However the campaign needs to be as wide ranging as possible and should not be confined to one company to distribute information.
"Over the last four and a half years, thousands of workers have been needlessly exposed to asbestos and their health has been put at risk because of that decision''
"It is vital that construction workers receive proper training in the dangers of asbestos, where it is likely to be found and what to do if you suspect asbestosis present. It is essential that pressure is placed on employers to ensure that training takes place and that workers are not victimised or threatened when raising concerns about asbestos, which is often the case.''