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HSE Warn Maintenance Workers not to take the Gamble with Asbestos

“Don’t take a gamble with your life” is the message to maintenance workers from Steve Coldrick, Director of the Health and Safety Executive’s Disease Reduction Programme.

These workers, including plumbers, carpenters and builders, account for more than one quarter of the 3,5000 asbestos-related cancer deaths each year. To raise their awareness of the dangers of working with asbestos, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today launched its “Don’t take the gamble” campaign.

More than half a million non-domestic premises and houses still contain some form of the material, posing a real threat to unwary maintenance workers. These workers are at risk because they may unknowingly drill or cut into material that could contain asbestos and breathe in the deadly fibres.

At the launch of the campaign at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s annual conference, Steve Coldrick said:

“Exposure to asbestos can cause cancer and an early death. There are around 1.8 million maintenance workers in Great Britain, many of whom don’t realise that asbestos could be present and therefore a threat. While current deaths are due to asbestos exposure that happened many years ago, we need to make today’s workers aware that they are at risk.. This campaign focuses on how important it is for those working with asbestos not to gamble with their lives.”

Colin Stainer, South West Area Co-ordinator of the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, said: “The IPHE is very happy to support HSE’s ‘Don’t take the gamble’ campaign. It is essential that maintenance workers are aware that asbestos is still present in many buildings and that they know what precautions to take to help prevent the appalling deaths caused by asbestos-related disease.”

Some key points for maintenance workers are:

  • Ask if asbestos is present before starting work
  • Check that the work does not require a licence
  • Work safely with asbestos: wear a mask, vacuum up any dust and do not drill or cut into asbestos with power tools.

“Don’t take the gamble” also reminds dutyholders of their obligations under asbestos law. Dutyholders are those responsible for the maintenance and repair of non-domestic buildings, either through a contract or tenancy agreement, or because they own the building. Under Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations, dutyholders have to manage the risk from asbestos in their buildings.

Some key points for dutyholders are:

  • Manage the risk from any asbestos in the building
  • Make and keep a record of its location and condition
  • Tell people who may work on the building that asbestos is present, especially maintenance workers.

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