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Asbestos register

Asbestos - hidden killer

Asbestos is the primary cause of work-related cancer.

Did you know that every week...

  • 3 plumbers die
  • 20 tradesworkers (mostly men) die
  • 6 electricians die
  • 6 joiners die

...all from this hidden killer.

5,000 people die prematurely every year as a result of asbestos exposure. This is around three times the number of road accident deaths. Almost all of the people dying now were exposed to asbestos decades ago and asbestos is often wrongly seen as a problem of the past (because its importation and use has been banned since 1999).

But the Health and Safety Executive estimates that 500,000 non-domestic buildings in the UK still contain asbestos: in schools, offices, industrial buildings etc. 

You may be at risk of exposure to asbestos and/or you may be a manager with responsibilities competently to manage asbestos. If so, you should read Prospect Members' Factcard 6 [for hard copies, please make your request to SafetyReps@prospect.org.uk].

Asbestos: it's time to get rid of it! TUC campaign 

Prospect supports the TUC's campaign that it's time for regulations that require the safe, phased and planned removal of all Britain's remaining asbestos. Only that way can we ensure that future generations will not have to suffer the same deadly epidemic from asbestos-related diseases that we have today today.

What action can you take?

Use the checklist below and the TUC guidance

  • Has your employer done an asbestos survey and shared it with the union?
  • Are the records up to date and accessible?
  • Is there an effective plan for the management of asbestos that will ensure that no person is exposed in the interim?
  • Have all areas that may contain asbestos been labelled?
  • Are asbestos- containing materials regularly inspected for damage/deterioration?
  • Have all staff been trained on asbestos risks, given information on its location and instructed on precautions?
  • Are contractors always notified of any materials or suspected materials before commencing work?
  • If your members regularly work in other locations, are there procedures to ensure that these other places do not pose a risk of asbestos exposure?
  • Are there procedures to record any exposure and inform any employees who may have been exposed?
  • Is there an agreed plan for removing the asbestos safely, including a practical timetable?
  • Are safety representatives fully consulted on all aspects of the asbestos policy?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then you need to take action.

Looking for general information?

HSE provides an enormous suite of information, advice and interactive tools at its excellent webpages. Reps will find the interactive asbestos management tools particularly valuable as they help assess danger.

HELP: asbestos emergency!

I may have been inadvertently exposed to asbestos. What should I do?

People who believe they may have been exposed to asbestos are understandably anxious and concerned about the possible effects on their health. Many cases of inadvertent, short-term exposure to asbestos will most likely have led to minimal exposure to fibres, with little likelihood of any long-term ill health effects.

Although the type of asbestos involved and duration of exposure may be known, there may be little reliable information about the level of exposure. These are all important factors in determining the level of risk - the more fibres that are released by an asbestos-containing material, and the longer the work activity lasts, the greater the cumulative exposure to asbestos fibres and, therefore, an increased risk of ill health effects.

Some work activities are more likely to create a significant concentration of asbestos fibres in the air, and therefore, add to the risk if suitable precautions are not in place; for example:

  • use of power tools (to drill, cut etc) 
  • work that leads to physical disturbance (knocking, breaking, smashing) of an asbestos-containing material that should only be handled by a licensed contractor eg sprayed coating, lagging, asbestos insulating board (AIB)
  • manually cutting or drilling AIB
  • work involving aggressive physical disturbance of asbestos cement eg breaking or smashing

Some asbestos-containing materials release fibres more easily than others. For detailed information on types of asbestos-containing material and the likelihood of fibre release, see: Appendix 2 (page 53) of Asbestos: The survey guide.

Consult your GP

If you are concerned about possible exposure to asbestos from work activities, you are advised to consult your GP and ask for a note to be made in your personal record about possible exposure, including:

  • date(s)
  • duration
  • type of asbestos and
  • likely exposure levels (if known - Prospect H&S Reps should insist on the involvement of an occupational hygienist or other specialist to measure and assess).

In some circumstances, your GP may refer you to a specialist in respiratory medicine. HSE does not advocate routine X-rays for people who have had an inadvertent exposure to asbestos. Asbestos-related damage to the lungs takes years to develop and become visible on chest X-rays. X-ray examinations cannot indicate whether or not asbestos fibres have been inhaled.

If your employer  fails to find out why an inadvertent exposure occurred or what action it needs to take to prevent a recurrence, involve your H&S Rep and escalate if necessary. Don't hesitate. If the negotiator requires specialist support, it is available from HQ and we can respond very quickly.

Pleural plaques

It is not possible to claim compensation for pleural plaques in England and Wales. However, in Scotland, The Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill enables victims to continue to claim compensation through the courts for pleural plaques, pleural thickening and asbestos-related conditions.

Situation in England & Wales: On 25 February 2010 the government said it would not overturn the October 2007 House of Lords ruling regarding pleural plaques compensation claims, although if new medical or other significant evidence were to emerge, it would reassess this situation.

The government has however agreed to offer an extra-statutory payment of £5,000 for people with pleural plaques who had begun compensation claim cases before the Law Lords' ruling in October 2007 which effectively said that, even though caused by exposure to asbestos, pleural plaques is not a condition that sufferers are entitled to claim compensation for.

Prospect register: tell us if you've worked with asbestos

asbestos register leafletProspect pursues compensation claims for asbestos-related illness every year. We sometimes need help from members' former colleagues to help prove that asbestos is involved. But many sufferers have lost touch with former colleagues by the time their condition comes to light.

We have set up a register to record details of members' workplace exposure to asbestos. So far, more than 1600 people have volunteered this information. 

If you have worked with asbestos, please add your details to the register. The register will be used if you ever need to make a claim on your own behalf, or to help pursue claims on behalf of your colleagues or former colleagues.

Prospect lawyers will search the register for witnesses who worked for the same employer or in the same workplace and so provide evidence in support of members' claims. This will help them succeed in claims for Prospect members or their bereaved families and can bring financial peace of mind and justice to those affected by asbestos diseases.

Download our asbestos register leaflet for more information. To register, contact asbestos@prospect.org.uk, or download the PDF version of our asbestos registration form.

If you are suffering from an asbestos-related disease and want to submit a claim for compensation, you can find more information in the 'legal services' area of our site.

Members - you will need to log in before you can download the asbestos register form.