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The Deadly Dust in Our Buildings: Asbestos Dangers Lurk from the Past

The recent announcement from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) serves as an urgent reminder that asbestos hazards remain very real, even decades after being banned. This dangerous material, once widely embraced by the construction industry for its fireproofing abilities, has led to the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in Great Britain.

While asbestos use in buildings was prohibited in 1999, risks still remain in structures built prior to the year 2000. It's estimated that around half a million non-domestic buildings contain asbestos of some form, putting workers and visitors vulnerable to exposure if the material is disturbed or damaged. Even low-levels of exposure can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

To tackle this public health threat, the HSE has launched an asbestos safety campaign urging responsibility and compliance with legal duties. Owners and managers of workplaces, hospitals, schools, shops, churches and various facilities built between the 1950s to 1980s, have obligations for proper asbestos inspection, management and containment.

Updated guidance including template asbestos management plans have been made available by the HSE. However, the ultimate goal is instilling a culture focused on safety. Preventing exposure through proactive management and checks is far more ethical than dealing with the aftermath of negligence and ignorance.

As the HSE conducts more premises inspections, there is no excuse for lack of asbestos awareness or duties overlooked. We owe it to today's workforce along with future generations, to make zero-tolerance of asbestos risks the new normal. The heartbreaking statistics of over 5,000 annual asbestos-caused deaths cannot become an acceptable consequence or reality we learn to live with. The time for change and accountability is now.


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