Tradespeople are becoming complacent about their risk of exposure to asbestos, according to a survey from Jefferies Solicitors.
Thirty years after the UK banned the import and use of both blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos, the survey found the majority of tradespeople still don't recognise that asbestos exposure continues to be the country's biggest workplace killer.
While nearly 60% of those who responded to the survey can identify asbestos and 40% know somebody that has been affected by it, the majority still believe that stress is the bigger threat to their health.
The survey, by industrial diseases compensation specialist Jefferies Solicitors, highlights how 31% of tradespeople surveyed think that stress is the UK's biggest single cause of work-related deaths, while only 5% believe that asbestos exposure is accountable. Respondents listed other reasons such as an accident with machinery (18%), a stroke or heart attack (17%) or working at height (14%) ahead of asbestos exposure.
These results are in contrast to recent statistics from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which states that asbestos is the biggest workplace killer in the UK, with 20 tradespeople dying from asbestos exposure every week. This also mirrors the thoughts of Britain's leading expert on mesothelioma, a type of cancer that is linked to the exposure of asbestos. Professor Julian Peto believes that Britain is currently in the middle of a mesothelioma epidemic caused by the use of asbestos in the UK prior to it being outlawed.
Worryingly, only half of the tradespeople questioned have had training to deal with asbestos, despite 36% claiming that they have been exposed to asbestos at some point in their working lives. In fact, the survey suggests that asbestos is still a big problem in the UK, with 40% of respondents also stated that they personally know somebody who has been diagnosed with an asbestos health problem, such as mesothelioma.
Michael Jefferies, managing director of Jefferies Solicitors, said: "The results of this survey are certainly surprising. We expected awareness to be much higher about the risks of asbestos exposure, but in fact, the results show that tradespeople are becoming complacent about the dangers. While asbestos may be banned from being used in buildings today, it hasn't gone completely, which is why we are urging the trade who think they have been exposed to asbestos to look at recent government advice on how to claim compensation. Recent guidelines have changed which means it's now easier to claim, thanks to a new support package available for mesothelioma victims and their families."