17 May 2018
Asbestos is an issue that has been in the news for several years. Everyone, by now, knows the damage it can cause, but do you really know why? Today, we’re going to delve into the details of the mysterious material that causes more than 5000 deaths in workers each year. Higher than those killed in road traffic accidents.
With thousands of tonnes of asbestos having been used, we cannot believe that it’s a thing of the past. In fact, any building that has not been built or refurbished since 2000 is likely to house this material. Knowing this, it isn’t much of a surprise that 75% of schools in the UK have asbestos in, and with the education budget cuts, the removal of this is very unlikely.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral substance that can be pulled into a fluffy consistency. It has been used in a variety of building and construction material for insulation and as a fire retardant, simply because it was cheap, durable and flexible.
If left alone, it can cause no harm, but once they’re disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. The higher the percentage, the easier it can be to damage the material. Inhaling these fibres can cause serious diseases in your lungs. Although, the disease will not affect you straight away, it takes an incredibly long time to develop and is more likely to affect you later in life.
In 1992, it was made illegal to use asbestos during the creation of new products in the UK, but it was still used for updating the insulation in houses and other jobs where the material was already in place. Then, in 1999, selling and fixing anything containing the material was made illegal.
Alongside anyone working with asbestos or in a building with damaged or disturbed asbestos, living with someone with a high exposure to asbestos material can also put you in danger. With a lot of schools still containing asbestos, the disturbance of this material could also cause harm to both the teachers and pupils, if not dealt with accordingly.
How to Protect Yourself
If carrying out work that potentially involves a high risk of asbestos, you must have a licence to do so. Removing asbestos without the proper training and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can cause harm to not only themselves, but anyone around them or using the premises prior to removal.
Employers should do all that they can to protect their workers from asbestos related illnesses. Many current cases have shown those who suffer from one of the illnesses have received a large pay out as compensation from their previous employers.