New report says ‘UK is failing to bridge the asbestos safety gap’

A new report citing evidence of the hidden health risks posed by asbestos in UK public buildings, such as schools and hospitals, has been launched by the independent think tank, ResPublica. The report – Don’t breathe in: bridging the asbestos safety gap – reveals that the most toxic forms of asbestos account for 98 per cent of UK mesothelioma deaths, yet are virtually invisible to current
UK monitoring technologies, leading to increased mortality in professions not normally associated with asbestos.

It draws on evidence of a rise in mesothelioma deaths among British teachers and nurses, who are respectively five and three times more likely to develop the disease. Furthermore, the levels of airborne asbestos currently deemed acceptable under the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) regime means that a British schoolchild could breathe in 10 times more asbestos per day than a schoolchild in Germany.

Included in the report’s recommendations are that:

• Government should bring the current H&S regime up to par with Germany, France and the Netherlands

• Government should commission a cost-benefit analysis for the prioritised, phased removal of all asbestos from public buildings in the UK

• Government should provide HSE with more resources to revise and clarify the current ‘Duty to Manage’, given the practice and evidence that has emerged showing that complexity works against compliance

• Establish a central register of all asbestos currently in place in public buildings across the UK

• Include the occupations of mesothelioma victims above the age of 75 to reflect the link between workplace hazards and the national death-rate

• Improve the regime for reporting disturbance of asbestos materials in a way that reflects the true risks that this poses to school children

You can find a copy of the full report here.