Asbestos legacy of the shipbuilding industry

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Mesothelioma, a form of cancer attributed to asbestos exposure, will cause the deaths of more than 60,000 people in the UK during the next 30 years, according to research by the Health and Safety Executive.

The Chronicle newspaper reports that the north of England is likely to be badly affected because of its industrial past. A long history of shipbuilding in Barrow-in-Furness and around the north-east of England, combined with the heavy use of asbestos in this industry from the 1950s onwards, makes it likely that these areas will see high instances of this aggressive form of cancer.

Mesothelioma Action Day commemorates victims and their families

A conference in Gateshead on Mesothelioma Action Day saw victims of the disease, carers, bereaved families and healthcare professionals gather together to remember their loved ones and press for more action from the government.

Conferences took place around the country to commemorate this day, with the assistant general secretary of Unite, Gail Cartmail, describing exposure to asbestos as “an ever-present danger” at the London meeting.

UK one of the last European countries to ban asbestos

White asbestos was only banned in this country in 2000, and its prolific use during the 1940s onwards means that it remains present in commercial and residential properties constructed prior to the ban.

A lack of asbestos awareness, in addition to a failure by some employers in the past to warn of its dangers, has led to a “ticking timebomb which is now exploding” as described by Chris Knighton, widowed in 2001 after her husband was diagnosed with Mesothelioma.

Ships used by the Royal Navy were also fitted out with asbestos-containing materials, including the walls, floors and ceilings of the sleeping quarters and galley area. Boiler and engine rooms were full of the substance, making it impossible to avoid for those serving in the Royal Navy, or for workers involved in refitting the vessels post-war.

Asbestos Awareness training is vital to stay safe

Nowadays workers are able to undergo training on asbestos awareness – in fact, it is a legal requirement for employers to train staff who might encounter asbestos at work. Self-employed tradespeople should also undergo this type of training, which involves a 90-minute course that provides all the information needed to stay safe.

The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) provides a certificate on successful completion of each course. It can be downloaded immediately, and used to demonstrate responsibility and commitment to health and safety.

What is included in UKATA online training?

Asbestos training courses are flexible and can be taken either in the workplace or at home. Awareness of the dangers of asbestos, where it might lie within a building, and what to do if it is uncovered, all form major parts of the training.

Also known as Category ‘A’ training, the certificate for this initial course is valid for 12 months, after which time the Health and Safety Executive recommends refresher training that covers all new safety recommendations or legislation.