HSE revives asbestos awareness programme

The Health & Safety Executive has produced a new ‘how to’ website and app for asbestos safety as part of an awareness campaign.

shutterstock_183277274The free Beware Asbestos web app, for phones, tablets and laptops (www.beware-asbestos.info) leads tradespeople through a list of simple multiple-choice questions about the type of building they are working in, the job that they are doing, and the type of asbestos containing material they are working on.

Depending on their answers, they will be:

  • told to stop work and get a licensed asbestos contractor if the asbestos risk is too high;
  • taken to a simple how-to guide giving them easy to follow step-by-step information for lower risk asbestos work;
  • told there is no asbestos risk and so they are safe to continue work.

As part of the £1.1m initiative, the HSE is also giving away 200,000 asbestos safety kits through TradePoint stores across Great Britain. The kits include information to help identify and address asbestos hazards.  They also include a free pair of Type 5 disposable overalls to support safer working with asbestos.

A survey commissioned by the HSE found that only 30% of tradespeople could identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working, while only 55% of construction workers said they knew how to protect themselves from the risk.

HSE 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. Our new campaign aims to help tradespeople understand some of the simple steps they can take to stay safe. Our new web app is designed for use on a job so workers can easily identify if they are likely to face danger and can then get straight forward advice to help them do the job safely.”

Construction Ucatt welcomed the HSE initiative but regretted that there had been a four-year gap between this initiative and the axing of the previous ‘Hidden Killer’ publicity campaign.

Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said; “Construction workers are at the greatest risk of being exposed to asbestos. Any campaign that warns workers of the dangers of asbestos is welcome. The campaign needs to be as wide ranging as possible and should not be confined to one company distributing information.”

Mr Murphy added: “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. Employers who allow workers to be exposed to asbestos must be prosecuted.”

Reference: The Construction Index