Being exposed to asbestos significantly increases the chance of suffering serious disease and aggressive cancers such as Mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs. Being aware of the existence of asbestos is therefore vital for anyone likely to come into contact with it.
In fact, contractors in the UK are legally obliged to provide Asbestos Awareness training for their employees, and it is highly recommended that self-employed tradespeople also undertake this type of training.
Online Asbestos Awareness training
Also known as Category ‘A’ courses, Asbestos Awareness training can be completed online in your own home, or at work. Course content includes where asbestos might be lying, its different forms, and what you should do if you come across it.
Other courses exist for contractors involved in the removal of asbestos, which is why it is imperative to leave asbestos undisturbed and call in the specialists. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the body responsible for ensuring worker safety in this respect.
They investigate and have the power to take legal action against companies and individuals who do not follow strict regulations surrounding the handling of asbestos. Releasing asbestos fibres or dust into the atmosphere can place members of the public in danger, as well as workers.
One such investigation by the Health and Safety Executive has started against a Shropshire Hospital NHS Trust.
Workers potentially exposed to asbestos at a Shrewsbury hospital
The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital is currently under investigation for exposing workers to asbestos during building works there in 2012. A member of the hospital staff reported their concerns about the health and safety of workers, claiming that unsafe practices had been carried out.
Expecting the hospital to adjust their working practices, instead he was sacked from his job but later went on to win a tribunal for unfair dismissal. One of the main concerns he had for the workers involved was providing ‘traceability’ back to the hospital should any of them fall ill in years to come.
He was quoted as saying:
“The fact that it is part of the HSE investigation means that if someone has an issue in 10 or 20 years time their solicitor will be able to say ‘we have a record of asbestos exposure in 2012’. It creates traceability.”
Because asbestos-related diseases including Mesothelioma can take several decades to strike, traceability is an important consideration if a claim for compensation is to be made by the victim or their relatives.
Mesothelioma caused the deaths of 2,429 people in 2012, according to Cancer Research UK. The Health and Safety Executive also states that “there are about as many asbestos-related lung cancer deaths each year as there are mesothelioma deaths.”
Additionally, nine hundred new cases of Asbestosis were assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in 2013, making this a growing worry for those who might have been historically exposed to asbestos.