Health and Safety Executive
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Poignant training pledge launched to tackle 4000 asbestos death toll

A poignant target of 4000 hours of free asbestos awareness training has been set in a new initiative to help tradesmen across Britain protect themselves from the deadly dust.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in partnership with the training industry, is calling for those who run training course to pledge free hours during September to hit a target of 4,000 - the approximate number of deaths each year from asbestos-related diseases.

It is hoped that 4000 face-to-face training hours and an additional 4,000 hours of online training will be offered up by various providers.

The free training will be available throughout October and November and is aimed at tradesmen such as joiners, electricians and plumbers who are most likely to disturb the fibres as they go about their work - around 20 a week lose their lives to asbestos-related diseases.

Said Karen Clayton, HSE's director for long latency health risks:

"Our Hidden Killer campaign is helping tradesmen understand the lifesaving fact that asbestos exposure is not just an historical problem - around half a million public buildings still contain it.

"This new initiative, a continuation of the campaign, is all about tradesmen finding out exactly what they need to do to protect themselves by taking advantage of free training.

"There is sadly little we can do to help those who are already suffering the often fatal effects of asbestos exposure in the workplace, but we can prevent this hidden killer claiming another generation.

"Through industry playing its part and asbestos support groups helping us to get the messages out about the importance of training, we can all do something practical to ensure that the risk to workers is minimised."

Across Britain, more than 40,000 people have died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma since the late 1960s - and the numbers dying are increasing. Latest annual figures show that 2,249 people died from the disease in 2008 alone, up over three per cent on the previous year. (See notes to editors)

Said Tony Whitson, Chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum:-

"Each day we visit newly diagnosed mesothelioma sufferers who were never warned of the dangers of asbestos at work and who never knew how essential it was to avoid exposure to asbestos. As we confront the awful legacy from past exposure, the importance of asbestos awareness and training today cannot be exaggerated: it's absolutely vital. That is why, in the name of all those whose lives have been lost to asbestos disease, we give our wholehearted support to this initiative, which seeks to provide free asbestos training and, most importantly, publicise the importance of asbestos training provision."

Independent Asbestos Training Providers (IATP) and the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) are working with HSE by inviting their members to pledge. Members of the Asbestos Safety Health Environmental e-Learning Association (ASHEeLA) are also invited to provide free online training courses.

Added Christine Winter, Chair of IATP:

We welcome the opportunity to be involved in this training pledge initiative. Asbestos destroys individuals, families and communities and we want to play our part in making businesses, trades and individuals aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Said Eddie Strong, UKATA Vice-Chairman:

"We are pleased to be invited by HSE to participate in this initiative. The initial response from our members has been extremely encouraging and we are confident that pledges of free training hours will gain momentum as the pledge gets properly underway.

"UKATA Training Providers, together with other participating bodies will offer free asbestos awareness training to those individuals who otherwise may not have the opportunity to receive it".

Max Lopacki from ASHEeLA said:

"With around 20 tradespeople dying each week from asbestos-related diseases our members are wholeheartedly supporting HSE's initiative by pledging 20 free asbestos awareness eLearning courses per day. The pledged courses will be available online via our members' websites and can be taken at anytime. This is a very convenient way to access asbestos awareness training and will help hundreds of at-risk tradespeople learn how to protect themselves from this Hidden Killer."

Training providers looking to pledge hours are invited to visit the campaign website www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/training-pledge.htm1 and those wanting to sign up to free training can see what is being pledged in their area by following links on the site.

Notes to editors:

  1. There are four main diseases associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres. These are asbestosis (a scarring of the lung tissue caused by asbestos), two kinds of cancer (mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer), and diffuse pleural thickening (a non-malignant disease affecting the lung lining). For more information visit www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/asbestos.htm2
  2. Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 details training requirements. There are three main types:-
    1. asbestos awareness training - for workers likely to disturb asbestos while carrying out their normal everyday work, or who may influence how work is carried out;
    2. training for non-licensable asbestos work - for those workers undertaking planned work with asbestos which is not licensable, such as a roofer or demolition worker removing a whole asbestos cement sheet in good condition or for workers such as asbestos surveyors;
    3. training for licensable work with asbestos - for those working with asbestos which is licensable such as removing asbestos insultation or insulating board

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