Duty holders receive cautions over dangerous asbestos levels

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Solicitor cautions North East white collar workers over dangerous asbestos levels

A Solicitor has warned that growing numbers of white collar workers are placing themselves at risk from lethal asbestos fibres following years of low-level exposure at their workplace. Duty holders are responsible for maintaining or repairing non-domestic premises. The statement follows a recent publication from The British Medical Journal which calculated an increase in the number of asbestos related diseases likely to peak in the year 2020 – with incurable Mesothelioma cases also said to dominate medical reviews.

The Solicitor’s statement has recently attracted attention as growing numbers of office workers and teachers have been diagnosed with asbestos related diseases in the north east. Due to the region’s historic industrial background, many of the original buildings and their contents (ranging from doors to ceilings) have been built using some of the toxic asbestos-containing materials.

75% of schools currently contain asbestos. 253 teachers have died from asbestos-related diseases since 1980, with the number of former students having died from these diseases estimated to be significantly higher.

Most workers are said to be clueless about the dangers their surrounding environment contains, with the solicitor saying:

“Many white collar workers would have been unknowingly exposed to low levels of the dust in their workplace.”

Growing concerns over asbestos related deaths have seen major revisions in which buildings were considered to be at risk, particularly towards structures built before the year 2000. Duty holders – those who are responsible for maintaining or repairing non-domestic premises – are required to actively manage any asbestos in buildings. This provides a practical way to identify, prioritise and properly plan the actions that need to be taken to manage the risks. – HSE

“Evidence shows low level exposure to the dust is sufficient to cause the disease. Over 1 million tonnes of asbestos is still present in British buildings and is the direct result of about 4,500 deaths per year”

The extraordinary figure is set to rise as ‘mesothelioma develops between 25-50 years after the asbestos exposure’ – the peak of asbestos use in 1970/80s is now, according to safety experts UKATA, scheduled to emerge today in serious medical conditions. Heavy fines and court procedures are in place to prevent asbestos containing units (boilers, for instance) from being placed on the market to stop further exposure. Yet “while it is difficult to substantiate a claim against the owners of the building where the person works”, it remains as easy and responsible as ever to have a property surveyed for asbestos. All public buildings such as schools and community centres should have an asbestos management plan in place. Housing Associations have a duty of care to their tenants and to those working on their properties, such as tradesmen and maintenance workers, who may disturb the fabric of buildings during the course of their work. Precautions such as asbestos surveys should be taken to ensure that people are not at risk by disturbing asbestos.

To discuss the best plan of action for you and your organisation email Andy Brown – Asbestos Management Consultant to discuss the best plan of action for your team of people, tenants/building users and your organisation.

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