No Time to Lose, is the title of a new campaign from IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) the launch of which, I attended on the 8th April.
It is disappointing to be reminded that over 2,500 people a year die in the UK still die from mesothelioma, a horrible and painful cancer that arises after exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos was widely used in the mid twentieth century as an insulator, fire resistor and a component of many building materials. Worldwide cancer caused by workplace chemical exposures causes over 740,000 deaths a year and whilst the hazards are now well recognised – exposure continues to occur.
At today’s well attended launch at the British Medical Association, the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) started a new awareness campaign to encourage health and safety practitioners to work together to raise awareness and to help to tackle asbestos related disease.
It’s the first event I have attended where the entrance was shrouded in plastic sheeting and had hazard tape criss- crossing the way in! A simple but impactful recognition that many go to work without seeing the risks involved. This was one clear message from the launch, asbestos may be present in any premise; domestic or business, large or small and many tradesmen are simply not trained or aware of the dangers involved.
IOSH have developed a series of free resources (www.notimetolose.org.uk) to help employers raise awareness and encourage workers not to ignore symptoms
Today, its use is banned in about 60 countries, including the UK, but the historical use of asbestos has left the substance in much of our built environment and can be fatal when disturbed. At the same time, its mining and use continues in some parts of the world. I hadn’t realised that whilst asbestos use peaked in the mid twentieth century in the UK, it could still be legally used and installed until 1999 and is present in over half a million commercial premises on the UK.
Worldwide, asbestos-related cancers claim at least 107,000 lives a year, and approximately 125 million people continue to be exposed to asbestos at work, in industries such as construction, demolition and farming. However, another key fact discussed at the launch was that it isn’t just these workers that get exposed, and each year the disease kills people who may have met asbestos in schools, hospitals, other public buildings or their own homes.
I found the launch impactful and a useful reminder – whilst it is hoped that in the UK numbers may start to fall, this remains a cause of ill health we should remain wary of!