Workers in the shipbuilding industry and a legacy of asbestos illness

Find out more about our asbestos awareness training.

According to the BBC, a charity in Clydesdale has called for the NHS to screen people at risk of asbestos-related illness. Clydesdale Action on Asbestos say that early screening would help to improve the life-expectancy of victims, and allow them to plan properly for their family’s future.

Clydesdale Action on Asbestos is the largest charity in Scotland for asbestos. The area has seen many deaths due to its prominence in the shipbuilding industry several decades ago, when workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos when carrying out their everyday duties.

Shipbuilding workers amongst the highest fatalities

The industry is known to have made wide use of asbestos because of its effectiveness against fire, and the fact that it was a cost-effective material to purchase. Most areas of a ship would have contained asbestos in some form – within the sleeping quarters, galley, engine and boiler rooms.

It would have been impossible for those working or serving on ships during World War II, and later when they were decommissioned, to avoid the deadly dust and fibres. The Inverclyde shipbuilding area is among the top 20 sites that have been most affected by asbestos and mesothelioma – a terminal cancer attributed to asbestos exposure.

Workers faced a lack of awareness and duty of care from employers

Even though warnings were provided by the government in 1945, the use of asbestos continued through the next few decades with little thought from employers for worker health and safety.

Those working on ships would have breathed in the dust and fibres even if their duties did not involve direct contact with the substance. The confined spaces onboard ship would have made it difficult to escape exposure, with the ramifications of this only materialising several decades later.

Asbestos training courses now a legal obligation for employers

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for worker safety in the UK, and has laid down the requirements regarding training for staff who might be exposed to asbestos during their working day.

Asbestos awareness courses, classed as Category ‘A’ training, are available online and provide the knowledge needed for tradespeople such as plumbers and heating engineers, to recognise the substance and avoid disturbing it.

UKATA online training

The UK Asbestos Training Association regulates asbestos awareness course providers, and sets the standards for training. The courses are flexible when taken online – all you need is a computer or mobile device and an internet connection – and candidates can complete their training at home or in the workplace.

Courses take just 90 minutes to complete on average, and a certificate becomes available for download once the quiz has been successfully completed at the end of the course.

HSE asbestos certificate

This certificate remains valid for a period of 12 months, and on expiry it is recommended by HSE that further training is undertaken. This training could be in the form of another course, or simply attending a relevant health and safety meeting within the workplace – the idea being that workers are aware of any new legislation or working practices surrounding asbestos.