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World Health Organisation highlights dangers of asbestos at its regional summit

The news that one in three Europeans may be at risk of exposure to asbestos, has further highlighted the need for asbestos awareness training courses for workers in the UK and abroad.

The European regional office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) held a three-day summit at Haifa in northern Israel last week. On the agenda for discussions were environmental and health issues of European member states, including the presence of asbestos and its inherent risk to residents.

Sixteen of the 53 members that make up WHO’s European region have yet to ban asbestos in all its forms, representing a high risk for inhabitants. It has been reported that Russia and Kazakhstan continue to produce asbestos in certain forms, the difficulty being that manufacturers of the substance are often large employers in their area, relying on the sale of asbestos for economic success.

Awareness of the dangers of asbestos

A further problem is that even for countries that have banned its use, asbestos still presents a risk to workers and the general public. Only recently, the danger of asbestos in schools has been prominent in the news, with several cases of Mesothelioma being diagnosed among former school teachers in the UK.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that three people per year died from Mesothelioma in 1980, whereas in 2011 this figure had risen to sixteen fatalities.

According to statistics provided by WHO, there are 900 million people living in the European region, around one-third of whom are at greater risk of asbestos exposure due to their country not having banned the substance completely.

The World Health Organisation’s Regional Director for Europe, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, was WHO:

“We cannot afford losing almost 15,000 lives a year in Europe, especially workers, from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos ….. Every death from asbestos-related diseases is avoidable.”

Pledge to eliminate asbestos-related disease by European member states

The elimination of asbestos-related disease by 2015 was one of the goals of a previous World Health Organisation summit in 2010, with many countries now having plans in place.

The fact that, according to the WHO report, around half of all deaths from work-related cancers are caused by asbestos, also adds weight to the argument for the extensive take-up of training to increase people’s awareness of asbestos.

Now a legal obligation for employers in the UK, asbestos awareness training courses help workers and tradespeople know how to recognise asbestos in all its forms, and what to do should they come across it in their normal line of work.

Asbestos Awareness (Category A) training

Usually taken as an online course, asbestos awareness training provides the information needed for plumbers, electricians and many other people working in the construction industry to make safe and informed decisions should they come into contact with asbestos.

Taking only a couple of hours to complete, these online courses are flexible and can be fitted into a busy day. When a course is completed successfully, candidates download a UKATA certificate which is valid for 12 months.