This week the British Lung Foundation is launching a new campaign "Take 5 and Stay Alive" to promote awareness of the dangers of asbestos, particularly among tradespeople who may be dealing with it every day.
According to official statistics, on average six electricians, four plumbers and eight joiners in UK die from asbestos exposure every week - making it the single greatest cause of work-related deaths. Though the use of the material was banned in 2000, any building made before then may contain it as it was commonly used as insulation. While undisturbed asbestos is relatively harmless, when disturbed the fibres can become airborne. When inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause a range of illnesses - including the terminal chest cancer mesothelioma. The tiny invisible particles stick to clothes, meaning that as well as risking their own lives, workers can be unknowingly putting their family members, colleagues and friends at risk.
The "Take 5 and Stay Alive" campaign aims to ensure tradespeople have the knowledge to identify asbestos and what type it is, with them then being able to assess correctly whether they have the right training and equipment to deal with it safely.
British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said:
"Twice as many people die from asbestos-related illnesses than on the roads each year in Britain. It's the biggest work-related killer, and the numbers of deaths associated with it are rising each year. Sole traders and people working for small companies are often under particular pressure to take jobs and deliver quickly, and this can sometimes put them at particular risk of asbestos exposure.
"But it's not just tradespeople putting their own lives at risk. If asbestos is disturbed the particles can affect others too, and we know several women who have died after years of washing their husbands' contaminated overalls.
"Our Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to give tradespeople the tools to act responsibly. We want to ensure they can identify asbestos wherever and in whatever form it might be present, and know how to deal with it safely. Our message is simple - taking just five minutes to assess the situation could save your life, and keep your family, friends, clients and business safe from exposure to potentially fatal asbestos dust."
More information on Take 5 and Stay Alive can be found on their website, which contains plenty of information about the different types of asbestos, where it can be found and the illnesses it can cause.
In addition to this campaign, former electrician Alan North has uploaded a video to YouTube describing his experiences after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma earlier this year. While this is unaffiliated with the BLF's work, it shares the same message about the dangers of mishandling asbestos. You can view the video HERE.