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Tags: Asbestos

Calls for stronger UK asbestos safety actions amidst ongoing exposure risks


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Urgent appeal for government action on asbestos

Two decades after the ban on asbestos, thousands in the UK remain at risk from exposure, according to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Ahead of Global Asbestos Awareness Week, IOSH has called for increased awareness and consistent management of asbestos, particularly in non-domestic buildings constructed before 1999.

An estimated 300,000 such buildings still contain asbestos, posing a significant health risk during refurbishments or retrofits aimed at achieving net zero targets.

Persistent risks and proposed solutions

Ruth Wilkinson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at IOSH, emphasised the current dangers and the lack of progress in managing asbestos.

She noted: “We know that about 5,000 people a year die from asbestos-related diseases every year in the UK.

“While the cause of their illness was likely exposure from decades ago, we believe that people are still being exposed today.”

The Work and Pensions Committee’s proposal for a 40-year deadline to remove asbestos from all public and commercial buildings was rejected by the Government in July 2022, prompting calls for a combined effort to address the issue.

National strategy and educational initiatives needed

IOSH advocates for a national strategic plan to address asbestos, aligned with the built environment and net zero initiatives.

Such a plan would focus on the duty to manage asbestos and the competence of individuals, including the development of clear guidance and enforcement.

Ruth Wilkinson added: “Nearly two years have now passed and there hasn’t been any progress. Action is needed now. People’s lives depend on it.”

Enhanced training for employees to raise awareness of asbestos dangers is also deemed essential.

International support for asbestos awareness

Global Asbestos Awareness Week, now in its 20th year, seeks to correct misconceptions about asbestos and enhance public education.

Linda Reinstein, President and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, highlighted the collaborative efforts to combat asbestos exposure: “This Global Asbestos Awareness Week, as we join forces again with IOSH and BOHS and echo the calls for heightened asbestos awareness, we embody the very essence of collective action.”

IFSJ Comment

The continued presence of asbestos in thousands of UK buildings underscores the need for urgent governmental action and public awareness.

Despite the known risks, efforts to manage and remove asbestos lag behind, posing a direct threat to public health.

The call by IOSH for a cohesive national strategy and improved educational resources is a critical step towards mitigating this ongoing hazard.

Collaboration between government bodies, industry stakeholders, and international organizations like the ADAO can amplify the impact of such initiatives, ensuring a safer environment for future generations.

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