A leading authority for asbestos training provision in the UK, the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA), is urging all public sector employees – including those in NHS hospitals – to be ‘asbestos-aware’ in order to better manage what it dubs ‘the ‘ticking time-bomb’ in thousands of public buildings.
UKATA warns that a lack of knowledge about the ‘killer building material’ is putting workers and users of these buildings at risk of fatal lung cancers.
The Association warns that that properties built or refurbished before the 2000 – and especially those built in the UK between the 1950s and 1980s, may contain asbestos, and that despite having been banned as a building material in 1999, asbestos causes around 5,000 deaths in the UK every year, ‘giving us one of the highest rates of mesothelioma globally’.
When disturbed, asbestos releases fibre dust particulates into the air which, when inhaled, can lead to asbestosis disease or fatal mesothelioma cancer of the lung linings. Over 90% of NHS Trusts say asbestos exists in their buildings, while since 2001 more than 200 teachers have died across the country from asbestos related cancer.
Craig Evans, UKATA COO, explained: “Financially it is not always an option or necessary to remove asbestos from buildings which contain it. However, people need to be aware of the presence of it and more importantly how to manage it. Asbestos awareness is critical, which is why we are calling on all employees within the public sector to receive asbestos awareness training.”
Described as a ‘ticking time-bomb’, the time between initial asbestos exposure and when a doctor accurately diagnoses an asbestos-related disease can be anywhere from 15-60 years – the so-called ‘latency period’. Craig Evans added: “As the effects of asbestos remain dormant for a number of years, people are unaware of the risk they have exposed themselves to until the symptoms present themselves and it is often too late. Being asbestos aware shouldn’t just be confined to the facility manager. Half-day asbestos awareness courses, available from UKATA member companies throughout the UK, are inexpensive, and will save lives.”