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How Asbestos Has Affected the Construction Industry in the UK

May 22nd, 2012

According to the Health and Safety Executive, asbestos “is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK.”

Because asbestos was used in a number of building materials, the construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the number of asbestos-related illnesses grew. These serious illnesses include asbestosis (scarring of the lungs), mesothelioma (cancer that affects the lining of internal organs) and lung cancer.

An estimated 4,000 people are diagnosed with an asbestos-related cancer every year in the UK.

In addition to a number of health concerns, the construction industry was also affected by new health regulations. The Health and Safety Executive launched an aggressive campaign aimed at preventing the prevalence of asbestos-related disease. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 introduced several regulations and procedures for handling asbestos. Then these regulations were updated in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Because many buildings built prior to 2000 may still contain asbestos, any type of construction work – whether it is maintenance or renovation – must follow these regulatory guidelines.

Overview of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

One of the highlights of the asbestos regulations is the “duty to manage.” This requires owners or managers of properties to maintain records of all asbestos-containing materials present. It also requires them to notify contractors who will be working with or near these materials of their location and condition.

Owners of construction companies whose employees may be working with asbestos also have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees. This includes performing an asbestos exposure risk assessment and detailed work plan before any work is done.

Detailed health records and medical surveillance of exposed employees must also be kept. At least once every two years, each employee must submit to a medical examination that includes a specific examination of the chest. To prevent exposure, employers must provide employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

All employees must also be properly trained and licensed to work with asbestos and all work to be conducted must be reported to the appropriate authorities in writing at least fourteen days prior to beginning any work.

These regulations also specify details for the disposal of asbestos waste. All containers with asbestos must be sealed and clearly marked as asbestos waste.

Many of these asbestos-related changes have made construction in the UK more costly and time-consuming. Health experts argue that if you see the end result of asbestos exposure on a human body, the tradeoff is worth it.

Bio: Michelle Y. Llamas is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She is committed to generating awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and providing information regarding breakthroughs in mesothelioma treatment.

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