Asbestos still putting lives at risk 20 years since ban, says IOSH
Despite 20 years passing since it was banned, lives are still being put at risk by companies failing to manage exposure to asbestos, according to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).
Although it was banned in 1999, the deadly substance is still present in at least half a million buildings built before this time. It is commonly found in roofing, spray coatings, lagging, insulating boards and cloth. And IOSH is concerned that because of the ubiquity of the material and a lack of awareness and uncertainty on how to manage it – particularly among SMEs – means people will continue to become seriously ill in decades to come. It takes around 20 years for asbestos related cancers to develop and currently around 5,000 deaths in the UK are linked to the substance.
Since the start of last year, 135 companies or individuals have been ordered to cease work activities because of non-compliance with asbestos regulations, with a further 130 being warned they must improve. A further 31 companies or individuals have been prosecuted for breaches, with fines ranging from £1 to £200,000 and some directors being given prison sentences.
IOSH is calling on organisations to manage risks more responsibly and stop people being exposed to asbestos, which can lead to fatal cancers like mesothelioma.
IOSH’s chief executive Bev Messinger said: “Thousands die in Britain every year from cancers like mesothelioma, while many more are diagnosed with it. We must also consider the families of these people, who watch their loved ones suffer. All this is preventable through good occupational safety and health. It is time for organisations to wake up and realise how dangerous asbestos is. There are no excuses.”
A survey carried out by IOSH last year found that there was a real lack of awareness among tradespeople about asbestos. Of the 500 respondents questioned, including electricians, carpenters, joiners and roofers, nearly one in four said they had been exposed to asbestos, while one in three admitted to never checking the asbestos register before starting work on a new site.