Asbestos remains the biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK

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A recent report published by the Work and Pensions Select Committee highlights that asbestos remains the biggest cause of workplace-related deaths in the UK, with over 5,000 asbestos-linked deaths in 2019 alone.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that around 300,000 non-domestic buildings in Britain still contain asbestos. MPs are calling for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings within 40 years.

Current asbestos regulations

The sale, supply and importation of all asbestos was banned over two decades ago. The current rules are that well-protected and undisturbed asbestos can stay in place, as it poses little immediate risk to health.

However, fibres released when asbestos is damaged can cause serious and sadly often fatal medical conditions such as asbestosis or mesothelioma in some people who are exposed to them.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Government are committed to continuing to remove asbestos from buildings, but the Select Committee report criticises their current strategy as being insufficient and unsustainable in both the short and long term.

What will happen in the future?

The Work and Pensions Committee has warned that while “extreme exposures” to asbestos are in the past, risks are likely to escalate.

As existing buildings are retrofitted to meet net-zero targets over the next few decades, the likelihood is that asbestos will be disturbed more frequently. The Committee raises the concern that the risk to public health will continue to increase in the future unless more comprehensive action is taken.

The report’s key recommendations

  • A 40-year deadline should be set for the removal of asbestos from non-domestic buildings
  • There should be an effective plan drawn up by the HSE and the government to remove asbestos from public and commercial buildings
  • There should be a central register of information on asbestos in buildings to ensure compliance with regulations
  • There should be a ‘sustained increase’ in both the funding and enforcement of asbestos regulations

Phillip Gower, Director at Novum Law and a specialist asbestos disease lawyer in our Cardiff team, says:

“It’s unacceptable that exposure to asbestos continues to be the leading killer in the workplace. So many of these tragic deaths were totally avoidable.

Considering the current lack of readily available information on asbestos in existing buildings, coupled with the failure to properly fund or enforce existing regulations, it’s unfortunately not surprising that the UK has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. This has to change, and the report has highlighted ­­­­­the need for a much more comprehensive and clearer plan of action.

We hope that the HSE and the Government takes its recommendations on board and works together to safely and responsibly remove asbestos once and for all.”

Asbestos disease claims

If you or a family member has been affected by exposure to asbestos, contact Novum Law’s team of specialist asbestos disease lawyers, who can help on a no win, no fee basis. To find out more, contact us on Freephone: 0800 884 0777, email or complete our online enquiry form.

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