The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has spent the last month targeting construction companies to ensure they have fit and proper measures in place to guard workers from threats associated with asbestos.
Responsible for the encouragement and enforcement of workplace health and safety across the country, the HSE has sought to ensure that construction organisations throughout Britain are aware of the risks to the health of workers that asbestos, silica and wood dust.
The initiative is called the ‘dustbuster’ site blitz and took place throughout the month of October, part of the HSE’s plans to reduce levels of harmful dusts such as asbestos in the construction environment that can slowly kill employees.
Figures from the HSE revealed that there are approximately 8,000 cancer deaths each year that are work related, with the construction industry accounting for 3,500 of these.
The primary causes are asbestos and silica.
It is significant for the industry because it is the first time that construction has been specifically targeted by the HSE with a particular focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung diseases.
Inspections have looked for evidence that employees on site understand risks, that projects are planned around these, and necessary enforcement is used to make sure people are protected.
When the scheme was launched, Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Construction at the HSE, explained exactly why the initiative was launched.
“Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are killed in construction accidents.
“Annually, work-related cancers, mainly linked to asbestos and silica, are estimated to kill 3,500 people from the industry.
“Thousands of others suffer life-changing illnesses from their work.
“As a result, we’ve launched this inspection initiative to find out what exactly businesses in the construction industry are doing today to protect their workers’ health, particularly when it comes to exposure to dust and damage to lungs.”
It highlights the need for greater awareness, and companies such as Callsafe Services run courses to ensure the industry is knowledgeable about the risks.