HSE warns young construction workers about asbestos risk

A yellow cordon reading 'Danger asbestos'
Asbestos exposure is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK (Image: Chrisp543 |

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a campaign to raise awareness about asbestos risk among young workers.

According to the regulator, young tradespeople “need to take the risk of asbestos much more seriously”.

Five thousand people die from past exposure to asbestos every year.

The campaign, ‘Asbestos and You‘, will focus on younger workers in trades such as plastering and joinery. HSE aims to reach construction workers who started their careers after the use of asbestos was banned in 1999.

When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. It can take 20 to 30 years for symptoms to appear.

HSE is concerned the length of time it takes for symptoms to develop after asbestos exposure could lead to a perception among young workers that it is something that only impacts older people who were working before the ban.

However, asbestos-containing materials were used extensively in the construction and maintenance of buildings in Great Britain from the 1950s until its ban, which means that workers of all ages could still be exposed to asbestos fibres today. 

HSE’s chief executive Sarah Albon said: “Asbestos exposure in Great Britain is still the single greatest cause of work-related deaths.  We are committed to protecting people in the workplace and reducing future work-related ill health.

“Asbestos is dangerous when not maintained in a safe condition or if physically disturbed without the right measures in place to avoid fibres being released into the air.”

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