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Training Pledge Tackles Annual 4,000 Asbestos-Related Deaths

29 September 2011

The new training pledge, initiated by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in partnership with the training industry, aims to tackle the approximate 4,000 asbestos-related deaths annually in the UK.

The aim is for various training providers to pledge free hours this month (September), for 4,000 face-to-face training hours, with an additional 4,000 online training hours, for delivery over an 8-week period during October and November this year. Tradesmen (and women) in particular are being targeted, especially joiners, electricians and plumbers, as they are most likely to disturb asbestos fibres as they go about their work. The HSE estimates that around 20 trades people a week lose their lives to asbestos-related diseases.

HSE’s director for long latency health risks, Karen Clayton, says “Our hidden killer campaign is helping tradesmen understand the lifesaving fact that asbestos exposure is not just an historical problem – around half a million public buildings still contain it. This new initiative, a continuation of the campaign, is all about finding out exactly what they (tradesmen) need to do to protect themselves by taking advantage of free training……… and so prevent this hidden killer claiming another generation.”

Across Britain, more than 40,000 people have died from asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma since the late 1960’s – with the numbers dying increasing. The latest annual figures show that 2,249 people died from the disease in 2008 alone, up over three per cent on the previous year.

Tony Whitson, chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum remarks. "Each day we visit newly diagnosed mesothelioma sufferers who were never warned of the dangers of asbestos at work and who never knew how essential it was to avoid exposure to asbestos. As we confront the awful legacy from past exposure, the importance of asbestos awareness and training today cannot be exaggerated: it's absolutely vital.”

Recently published updated statistics on the geographical distribution of Mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain, for the 20-year period 1981 to 2000, show a clear link between mesothelioma and the shipbuilding industry, where workers were exposed to asbestos during fitting out and ship breaking activities. Areas with the highest mesothelioma excesses in males tend to be those which contain ports and dockyards, particularly in Scotland, whilst the North East and South East are significantly higher than the average for Great Britain.

Other industries highlighted are railway engineering and those where factories used raw asbestos during production, which include places in Essex, inner and outer London. It is also noted that mesothelioma deaths for women during this time period are more than six times lower than the number of male deaths. However, significantly higher female deaths include areas associated with the manufacture of gas masks during the war, and also where women worked alongside men in the asbestos factories.

Analysing trends, the number of deaths due to mesothelioma has increased almost threefold over the 20-year period. And a consequence of the long latency period for mesothelioma is that asbestos exposure before the age of 40 usually determines the risk. Thus the deaths during the 1981 to 2000 period covered by these statistics generally relate to exposures during the 1970s and earlier decades.

Kent-based Medway Safety’s founder and managing director, Steve Gerring remarks that “Building owners and facility managers have a ‘duty of care’ to manage any asbestos in their building, and to protect workers, occupants and members of the public from asbestos fibre release, as outlined in ‘The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006’. We also urge them to ensure they take advantage of this new training pledge.

“Our company provides the nationally recognised UKATA asbestos awareness training courses, and we are delighted to participate in the training pledge initiative. We have pledged two free courses, with 10 places on each course on 11 October and 25 November, from 1.30 to 5.00pm, making a total of 70 hours.”

Visit for details of Medway Safety’s Asbestos Awareness courses on 11 October and 25 November, as well as other training courses and services.

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