Silent killer warning

MAINTENANCE workers in Suffolk have today been warned not to gamble with their lives when dealing with asbestos.The Health and Safety Executive has launched a campaign to highlight the dangers workers continue to face when dealing with asbestos after it was revealed 252 Suffolk people died from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to the hazardous substance, between 1981 and 2000.

MAINTENANCE workers in Suffolk have today been warned not to gamble with their lives when dealing with asbestos.

The Health and Safety Executive has launched a campaign to highlight the dangers workers continue to face when dealing with asbestos after it was revealed 252 Suffolk people died from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to the hazardous substance, between 1981 and 2000.

The HSE says maintenance workers, including plumbers, carpenters and builders, account for more than one quarter of the 3,500 asbestos-related cancer deaths each year.

More than half a million non-domestic premises and houses still contain some form of the material.

Maintenance workers are at risk because they may drill or cut into material that could contain asbestos and breathe in deadly fibres.

In Suffolk, Ipswich had the highest number of deaths from mesothelioma between 1981 and 2000 with 55. Suffolk Coastal had 37 deaths, Mid Suffolk 21 and Forest Heath had 17.

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Patricia Dair, the Health and Safety Executive's principal inspector for Suffolk, said: “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.”

Asbestos was used as a building material from the 1950s through to the mid 1980s, with some forms used up until 1999.

Most asbestos containing material in good condition is safe but it is dangerous when it is in a loose form, disturbed or worked on as this may release asbestos fibres into the air.

Mesothelioma accounts for approximately 50 per cent of deaths from asbestos.

To highlight the dangers of asbestos, The Evening Star is running a campaign called The Silent Killer, calling for greater safety and justice for victims.

Weblink: www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos

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.

Source: Health and Safety Executive