The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) in the United States estimates that more than 75 occupational groups have a history of asbestos exposure. While some of these occupations – such as asbestos mining and refining – are no longer in operation in the United Kingdom, many jobs still pose asbestos threats to modern-day workers.
Occupational asbestos exposure risks have certainly declined since the 1980s, when the first asbestos prohibition laws were enacted. These risks continued to drop as the UK ultimately banned the import and consumption of asbestos in 1999. However, many older asbestos materials still remain in place at various jobsites today.
Most jobs with a high risk of asbestos exposure fall into the blue collar sector. Workers or former workers in industrial occupations tend to have the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases.
Construction sites are one of the most asbestos-laden jobsites. Because countless homes and public buildings were constructed before asbestos bans, workers who renovate or demolish these structures may have to handle asbestos materials on the job. Furthermore, many construction activities have the potential to disturb these asbestos materials and release the fibers into the air. Construction workers who replace insulation, flooring, paneling or shingles have extremely high risks of encountering asbestos.
Industrial jobsites may also contain asbestos remnants. Manufacturing centers, factories, power generating sites, automobile repair garages and shipyards all pose asbestos exposure risks to current employees.
How Workers can Reduce their Risk of Occupational Asbestos Exposure
The Health and Safety Executive is dedicated to improving health and safety in the workplace and reduce the risk of mesothelioma prognosis. The HSE recommends the following procedures to workers at high-risk jobsites:
- Before performing any work on an asbestos product, identify the type and condition of the asbestos. In most cases, you should hire an asbestos inspector for this process.
- Do not perform any asbestos removal work unless you hold an asbestos license with the HSE.
- If you do perform asbestos work, be sure to incorporate the required exposure control and adhere to the permissible exposure limits. Also, be sure to obtain the proper safety gear from your supervisor and leave any clothing you wear during the work at the jobsite when you leave for the day.
- Remove all asbestos debris from the worksite before re-entering the facility without protective gear.
Before conducting any work tasks that involve asbestos and risk of mesothelioma, be sure to review the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to learn about recent updates regarding managing asbestos in the workplace.