The Health and Safety Executive has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of asbestos risks in the construction industry.
The HSE estimates that tradespeople could come into contact with asbestos more than 100 times a year, and that 20 tradespeople die of asbestos-related diseases every week in the UK.
In a survey of 500 tradespeople in September, the HSE found that more than two thirds failed to identify measures for safe asbestos working.
It found that 55 per cent of construction workers said they know how to protect themselves from the risk of asbestos exposure, compared with 70 per cent of carpenters and joiners and 71 per cent of plumbers.
The survey also revealed that only 15 per cent of tradespeople were aware that asbestos could be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.
As part of the safety campaign, the HSE has launched a free Beware Asbestos app to help workers identify whether they are at risk, and it will also give away 200,000 asbestos safety kits.
HSE’s chief inspector for construction Philip White said: “Asbestos is still a very real danger and the survey findings suggest that the people who come into contact with it regularly often don’t know where it could be and worryingly don’t know how to deal with it correctly, which could put them in harm’s way.”
Minister responsible for health and safety Mark Harper added: “The number dying every year from asbestos related-diseases is unacceptably high. Despite being banned in the construction industry, asbestos exposure remains a very serious risk to tradespeople.
“This safety campaign is about highlighting the risks and easy measures people can take to protect themselves.”
UCATT welcomed the new campaign, but criticised the cancellation of the earlier Hidden Killer Campaign that raised awareness of asbestos risks in the construction industry.
UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: “It is vital that construction workers receive proper training on asbestos. Pressure must be placed on employers to ensure that training takes place and workers are not victimised, threatened or blacklisted when raising concerns about asbestos, which is often the case.”
The union said it was dealing with an increasing number of cases where a lack of training or a lack of information was leading workers to be exposed to asbestos.