Trainee apprentices from around the West Midlands received a stark warning from the UK Health and Safety Executive that, once exposed to asbestos fibres in their lungs, they could die a premature death from mesothelioma unless they take necessary precautions in the workplace.
Mike Ford, HM Inspector of Health & Safety, delivered a hard-hitting message to 500 student plumbers, electricians, carpenters, bricklayer, finishers, tilers, designers and painters studying, at South Birmingham College, to work in the construction industry.
Sufferers from this deadly form of cancer have almost exclusively been previously exposed to asbestos and recent research conducted by the HSE shows that younger tradesmen, such as plumbers and electricians, know that asbestos is dangerous but just don’t believe that they are personally at risk. Yet every week 20 tradesmen across the country die simply because they have breathed in asbestos fibres during the course of their work whilst, across the West Midlands region one person dies a painful death every three days from mesothelioma.
Mike Ford said:
"Young tradesmen and women do not understand that the risks of asbestos are real, they think it’s yesterday’s problem but the reality is that here in Great Britain we are in the midst of an epidemic. Numbers of deaths are likely to soon exceed 5,000 a year. Asbestos is still present in about half a million buildings and when disturbed by tradesmen there is a real risk of inhalation which may cause their early and painful death."
Margaret Watkinson from South Birmingham College, said: "Asbestos is a very real danger for workers in the construction industry. South Birmingham College was delighted that HSE gave our construction centre students a valuable insight into the realities and dangers of working with asbestos and the steps that they can take to protect themselves."
(Source: Health and Safety Executive, UK: November 2008)