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PROTECTING WORKERS FROM ASBESTOS: A NEW LEGAL DUTY

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Protection for building and maintenance workers from the fatal...
Protection for building and maintenance workers from the fatal

diseases caused by asbestos will be enhanced tomorrow when the new

duty to manage comes into force. The duty will require anyone

responsible for the maintenance of commercial, industrial or public

properties or for the common areas of domestic properties, to check

for asbestos and properly manage the risk.

Many structures built or renovated between 1950 and 1980 still

contain asbestos, about half a million buildings across Britain.

Asbestos becomes dangerous when disturbed; if maintenance workers are

not warned they may dislodge the deadly fibres and unwittingly put

their lives in jeopardy. So the risks are great - but effective

compliance with the duty to manage will help save about 5,000 lives.

Jane Kennedy, minister of state for work, said:

'With the government's whole-hearted support, the Health and Safety

Executive is engaged in a campaign to get the message on asbestos in

buildings across to the huge audience who need to know about it, and

to encourage them to take effective action. It must surely make good

business sense to find out whether your premises contain asbestos,

and then make certain that building and maintenance workers are

warned in advance.'

Asbestos is the biggest occupational health risk ever faced by

workers in Britain. About 3,500 people are dying every year as a

result of exposure to asbestos many years ago, before it was banned.

This figure is expected to reach at least 4,000 deaths annually,

peaking sometime between the years 2011 and 2015. Most of these

deaths are from mesothelioma (cancer of the lung lining) or lung

cancer.

Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said:

'Asbestos is not yesterday's problem. We must now meet the challenge

of managing the risks from asbestos, if we are to prevent another

generation of workers suffering an early death at its hand.'

'Sadly, we can't turn the clock back for the people who breathed in

asbestos fibres in the shipyards, docks and factories of 30 years

ago. But what we can and must do is to make every effort to prevent

any more exposure to this terrible material.'

Notes

1. More information on asbestos is available on HSE's website.

2. Details of HSE guidance, free and priced, are available at

www.hsebooks.co.uk

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