Health and Safety Executive
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4,000 tradesmen to confront a hidden killer

Asbestos training pledge target smashed in bid to tackle grim death toll

Thousands of tradesmen are to get free asbestos awareness training in a bid to tackle ignorance about Britain's biggest industrial killer.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in partnership with industry, set a poignant target of 4000 hours of face-to-face training to be donated during September - one hour for each life lost to asbestos related illnesses in an average year. A target for a further 4000 hours of online training was also set.

But thanks to an overwhelming response from training companies, the target has been smashed by more than 50 per cent - and more than 4,000 at-risk tradesmen will now be able to take up the offer of free training.

7987 hours of classroom training have been offered up along with 5570 web-based hours, which includes courses in Romanian, Russian and Polish - equating to training for 4020 tradesmen.

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

The asbestos training pledge initiative is part of HSE's Hidden Killer campaign to raise awareness that asbestos is not just an historical problem - around half a million non-domestic premises still contain it.

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

"This training will save lives by helping to tackle ignorance about the risks posed by working with asbestos. It will help prevent this hidden killer from claiming another generation of British tradesmen.

"The response has been overwhelming and has completely exceeded our expectations. There's been a real groundswell of support from a whole range of training providers.

"We expect demand for the courses to high and urge tradesmen to go to and get signed up now. A few hours in a classroom or in front of a computer could add decades to someone's lives. The courses literally could be a life saver."

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

"The fantastic response to the request to for free asbestos training has exceeded everyone's expectations and provides a unique opportunity for thousands of workers to better understand the hazards of asbestos.

"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. The importance of asbestos awareness and training today cannot be exaggerated: it's absolutely vital.

"We also hope that HSE asbestos initiatives with such widespread support continue so that every worker who might be exposed to asbestos is reached, and lives will be saved that might well have been lost."

Independent Asbestos Training Providers (IATP), the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) and the Asbestos Safety Health Environmental e-Learning Association (ASHeLA) have been inviting their members to pledge

Said Christine Winter, Chair of IATP:

"It is fantastic to be part of something that has had such huge support and we thank the training industry - IATP members, those affiliated to other bodies and independent providers for their generosity. We will continue to spread the message of the dangers of asbestos exposure. Asbestos destroys individuals, families and communities.

Added Eddie Strong, UKATA Vice-Chairman:

"As we enter the training period of the campaign after an overwhelming pledge period, the UKATA on behalf of its members would like to reaffirm its support for HSE and this great initiative.

"Our members have been extremely generous in giving up their time to support such a cause, pledging 3412.5 hours of free training which equates to training for 975 tradesmen. If it will just help save one life from this horrendous disease, then it will have been well worthwhile.

"UKATA recognises that it is not just down to our members but also, that of other groups and independent training providers who have equally made this campaign what it is.

Max Lopacki from ASHEeLA said:

"We are extremely encouraged by the response to the eLearning pledges which are fast being taken up by a wide variety of trademen from the self-employed to those working for SMEs or larger organisations such as local authorities and universities. We have also had a very positive response to the foreign language courses offered. Our members are pleased to see that eLearning is helping to bridge the gap in asbestos awareness training"

Those wanting to sign up to free training can see what is being pledged in their area by following links on HSE's website

Notes to editors:

  1. 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)
  2. There are four main diseases associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres
    • asbestosis - scarring of the lung tissue caused by asbestos
    • mesothelioma
    • lung cancer
    • and diffuse pleural thickening (a non-malignant disease affecting the lung lining).
  3. 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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