It is time to get rid of asbestos for good, the TUC has said. Britain’s biggest industrial killer, responsible for thousands of cancer deaths every year, “can still be found in around half a million non-domestic premises and probably around a million domestic ones”, the UK union federation says.
The TUC says the official line that asbestos is best left where it is, managed and undisturbed, isn’t realistic. “It is extremely unlikely that asbestos is never going to be disturbed if it is left in place for decades. There can be few cupboards, boilers, wall panels and pipes that have had no work done on them since the 1970s, when asbestos use was at its peak,” it notes.
“There is therefore considerable doubt that most of the asbestos that is to be found in buildings is going to lie undisturbed for the next 20 years, let alone the next hundred… So long as asbestos is present there is a risk.” The TUC has published a new guide for workplace representatives on how to negotiate “to get rid of this killer dust once and for all.”
The guide says “there is a need to ensure that all workplaces have a programme of identifying, managing and safely removing and disposing of all asbestos.” And the government should introduce a law requiring this to happen, it maintains.
According to TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson: “There is no place for complacency. It is not only your members that are risk, it is anyone who enters the premises, or who in years to come has to work on refurbishing or demolishing the building. Remember that your workplace could be one of those that the HSE estimates puts 1.3 million tradespeople at risk from asbestos. By ensuring that it is safely removed and disposed of, we can protect our members, and anyone working in the building in the future.”