A new memorial in Scotland brings awareness of the dangers of asbestos to the general public, as victims of asbestos-related disease are commemorated. A sculpture by artist, Jephson Robb, highlights just how significant this lack of awareness was in past decades.
Historically, workers were exposed to the substance on a continuous basis in some industries, one of which was shipbuilding. Use of asbestos within the construction industry up until 1999, has also been the cause of numerous deaths and asbestos-related illness.
Even now that asbestos is illegal, it is commonly found in commercial and residential buildings constructed prior to 2000 – a potentially dangerous place to be for plumbers, electricians, fitters and other tradespeople involved in the industry.
The International Asbestos Memorial – The Known and Unknown
The new memorial has been sited in Clydebank, home of the Scottish shipbuilding industry that claimed the lives of so many workers due to the widespread use of asbestos in previous decades. Clydebank is known to be the worst affected area for Mesothelioma in the UK.
Called The International Asbestos Memorial – The Known and Unknown, it consists of five marble pillars arranged in a line to look like a modern version of the Celtic Standing stones.
It is carved from white marble, the colour representing peace and hope, but that also references the colour of asbestos. Sculptor, Jephson Robb, said:
“… we don’t want this memorial to be about distress and focusing on the past. We want to bring a positive message that’s aspirational and looking to the future.”
The names of 500 victims are engraved on the sculpture, with an empty plaque representing those people currently suffering asbestos-related disease.
Mesothelioma is an untreatable form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, and is caused by exposure to asbestos. With more than 2,000 deaths occurring every year in the UK, it still poses a significant risk to those who comes into contact with asbestos.
Speaking on Glasgow Memorial Day, solicitor Laura Blane said:
“I speak to families every day who are struggling to come to terms with a recent diagnosis of Mesothelioma, or the loss of a loved one. The pain, grief and harm caused by the negligence of employers must not be forgotten.”
More names will be engraved on the sculpture on International Workers’ Memorial Day each year.
Asbestos Awareness courses
The HSE stipulates that employers must provide Asbestos Awareness training for all workers likely to come across asbestos in their line of work. These courses help people in the trades to identify the substance in all its forms, and understand the health implications for themselves and others, should fibres or dust be released into the atmosphere.
These Category ‘A’ courses as they are also known, can be taken online, which offers flexibility to all concerned. A certificate from UKATA is provided on successful completion, and is proof that the stipulated training has taken place.