Posted on Friday, 25th September 2020
With construction sites now re-opening following lockdown, there is growing concern about the lack of asbestos training that has been undertaken in the construction industry since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Essential Site Skills, which is a member of the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA), has spoken out after the association revealed that the number of construction workers who have undertaken asbestos training since March has steeply declined and is at its lowest level for five years. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, nationally an average of 18,000 workers a month completed asbestos training. Over the last six months (March – August), an average of 6,000 workers a month undertook asbestos training delivered by the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA)-approved training providers, a fall of more than 66%.
Training & Consultancy Manager Michael Harcourt commented: “Our concern is that asbestos training is being overlooked as workplaces push to make up for time lost during the lockdown. This not only increases workers risk of exposure to deadly asbestos, but anyone using the building."
Asbestos-related health issues, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, are not identified immediately after exposure to asbestos. It takes between 15 years and up to 60 years before deadly asbestos-related diseases present themselves.
The latency period of asbestos, coupled with a substantial drop in training numbers, could mean that the UK will be facing a greater amount of deaths from asbestos over the next 15 – 60 years. To reduce this risk, it is important that delivery of asbestos training returns to pre-Covid levels.”
Deaths from asbestos exposure have increased dramatically in the last 15 years after widespread use between 1950s and 70s. Since 2018, there have been more than 5,000 deaths annually in the UK from asbestos-related cancers - the largest single industrial killer ever seen in the UK. The HSE recommends that asbestos refresher training courses should be undertaken to help ensure knowledge of asbestos awareness is maintained. The asbestos regulations also make it clear that asbestos training for non-licensable and licensable asbestos works should be carried out at least annually.
Michael added: “It is now vitally important that all 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.”
To ensure asbestos training continues to be accessible during the pandemic, UKATA approved its 200-member companies and individuals to deliver asbestos courses by video conference technology.
Essential Site Skills is an approved member of UKATA and is now fully operational delivering asbestos training courses by video conference technology and face-to-face observing social distancing guidelines. These courses include: