Global Asbestos Awareness Week


It is a little known fact that Asbestos in the construction industry is responsible for 14 deaths in the UK every day. While this is as a result of too little understanding and protection in years gone by, Britain’ deadly asbestos legacy remains a threat to those who simply aren’t aware of the dangers or know how to handle the material.

We can however take important steps to protect the future workforce say the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) a leading authority on workplace health and occupational cancer research

“Despite the best efforts of many workplace health campaigns on the dangers, current training methods are often insufficient for many. Mandatory asbestos awareness training across the construction sector really must include practical elements and be tailored to specific job roles” says John Toms, IOM’s Director of Asbestos Services. “An architect should not receive the same template for training as a labourer.  We also need to understand that a typical one-hour online course doesn’t allow for any interaction with the trainer.  There’s no opportunity for a simple Question and Answer session to enable those being ‘trained’ to clarify any misunderstandings.” Most importantly, training should only be conducted by specialists in the field.

Whilst every construction worker is rightly required to undertake basic asbestos awareness training, no record of this is legally required on their Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card which every worker must carry as proof that they have undertaken the correct training and qualifications for their role. Most principal contractors and major house builders require construction workers on their sites to hold a valid CSCS card, yet rely on printed off online ‘certificates’ as proof that their employees are sufficiently asbestos aware.

If you search for Asbestos Awareness via a search engine, a raft of companies are shown offering very low cost ‘training’.  Phrases like ‘cheapest online course’ and ‘download your certificate today’ are displayed. 

“On all building sites, workers need to don a hard hat, safety boots and protective clothing, but none of this will protect against asbestos.  We must arm the workforce with adequate and personal training to deal with this hazard safely and protect Britain’s current and future construction professionals.” adds Toms.

Specialists in the work behind the research, policy and regulation of asbestos for over 45 years, IOM works closely with a plethora of professional industry bodies and commends the ongoing work conducted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS). Toms adds: “There is still much to be done by industry to help combat the effects of asbestos, however, the provision of appropriate, professional training is a positive place to start.”