The United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) has raised concerns about the lack of asbestos training in the construction industry since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Despite construction sites reopening in May, the number of workers undertaking asbestos training courses is the lowest for five years, prompting UKATA to speak out.
Before Covid-19, an average of 18,000 workers a month completed asbestos training. However, that fell to 6,000 a month between March and August – a drop of more than 66%.
Craig Evans, chief operating officer of UKATA, said:
Our concern is that health and safety training is being overlooked as construction sites push to make up for time lost during the lockdown.
This not only increases construction workers’ risk of exposure to deadly asbestos but also the buildings’ users.
It can be between 15 and 60 years before asbestos-related health issues, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, become apparent, and deaths from asbestos exposure have increased dramatically in the past 15 years after its widespread use between the 1950s and 1970s.
Mesothelioma is nearly always fatal and since 2018, there have been more than 5,000 deaths in the UK every year from asbestos-related cancers.
The UK Health & Safety Executive recommends asbestos refresher training courses to help maintain awareness. The regulations also make it clear that asbestos training for non-licensable and licensable asbestos works should happen at least once a year.
Mr Evans added:
It is now vitally important that all construction employers and workers ensure that all asbestos training is up-to-date. These are difficult times, but this is a matter of life or death.”