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  • Shalini Singh

Asbestos in construction-Learn the risks, causes and prevention

A person in PPE showing Asbestos Hazard sign

Construction sites are bustling with activity, but amidst the noise and progress lies a hidden danger: Asbestos. This silent threat poses significant health risks to construction workers, with the potential to lead to devastating illnesses like mesothelioma. In this blog, we'll delve into the nuances of asbestos exposure in the construction industry, its causes, and its impact on workers and their families.

How Are Construction Workers Exposed to Asbestos?

Asbestos poses the most significant occupational disease risk to construction workers.

In the construction sector, asbestos found its way into insulating boards, protecting buildings and ships against fire hazards. Asbestos cement became popular for roofing sheets and pipes, offering strength, durability and fire resistance. According to research commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was responsible for over 2,500 deaths among construction workers in 2005 alone, accounting for more than two-thirds of cancer-related deaths in the industry.

Who Is at Risk?

Construction workers across various trades face the threat of asbestos exposure. From bricklayers to plumbers, anyone working with or around asbestos-containing materials is vulnerable. Moreover, the danger extends beyond the job site, as workers unknowingly carry asbestos dust home on their clothes and tools, putting their families at risk of secondary exposure.

The Impact: Mesothelioma

Image showing the risk of Mesothelioma cancer if inhaled Asbestos fibres

Mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer, is primarily caused by asbestos exposure. Occupational asbestos exposure is the No.1 cause of mesothelioma worldwide. Among individuals with significant and prolonged exposure to asbestos, approximately 8% to 13% will develop mesothelioma. Tragically, even those who never worked directly with asbestos can fall victim to this disease. Living with someone who works with asbestos can increase your chances of developing mesothelioma because fibers can be brought home on a worker’s skin and clothes. These asbestos fibers, when inhaled or ingested, can become lodged in the membrane (mesothelium) lining various body cavities. Over time, these fibers can lead to the development of tumors, highlighting the insidious nature of asbestos-related diseases.

Preventing the risk of asbestos exposure

There are several proactive measures you can take. Here's what you can do:

  1. Stay Vigilant: Always consider the possibility of encountering asbestos when working on any property. Asbestos may be present in buildings constructed before the year 2000.

  2. Conduct Risk Assessments: Before undertaking any maintenance, refurbishment, demolition, or construction work, employers must identify if asbestos is present as part of their risk assessment process.

  3. Ensure Proper Management: Owners or managers of non-domestic premises are responsible for managing asbestos. This includes identifying and documenting the location and condition of any asbestos within the premises. This information must be readily available to anyone carrying out work to help them effectively manage the risks of exposure to themselves, their employees, and others.

  4. Seek Information: Request to see a copy of the asbestos management record to assess risks and determine necessary control measures that may need to be implemented.

Dealing with Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure can be a serious concern, but knowing how to respond if you come into contact with this hazardous material is crucial. Whether you've encountered asbestos at work or discovered it in your home, taking the right steps can help minimise potential health risks. Here's what you need to do:

If You're Exposed to Asbestos:

  1. Step Away: If you find yourself near asbestos fibers, move away from the source of exposure as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of further inhalation or ingestion.

  2. Handle with Care: Avoid shaking or brushing off asbestos fibers from your skin or clothing, as this can release them into the air, making them easier to inhale.

  3. Clean Up: Use a damp cloth to gently wipe and pat down your body, clothing, and footwear to remove any visible dust and fibers. This helps contain the asbestos and prevent it from spreading.

  4. Dispose Properly: Place any clothing contaminated with asbestos fibers in a bag along with the damp cloth used for cleaning. Contact your local authority for guidance on how to dispose of these items safely.

  5. Seek Medical Advice: If you're concerned about potential health effects from asbestos exposure, don't hesitate to seek medical advice. Consult your GP or contact NHS 111 for guidance and assistance.

Contact Us Today

At Base Solutions, our team of experts is dedicated to providing comprehensive consulting services to help businesses and individuals navigate the complexities of asbestos management. From asbestos awareness training to risk assessments, we're here to support you every step of the way. To learn more about our asbestos awareness services and how we can assist you in achieving compliance and safety goals, contact Base Solutions today.

Credit and Additional Resources

This blog was created with information provided by Alison Rios, a member of the Community Outreach Department for the Mesothelioma Center, an advocacy organisation that provides information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Thank you, Alison Rios, and the Mesothelioma Center for your dedication to raising awareness and supporting those affected by mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. For further resources on asbestos exposure in the construction industry and mesothelioma causes, please visit the following links:


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