This is why the NFRC is backing the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health ‘No Time to Lose’ campaign – designed to educate and inform those working in the built environment who are likely to come into contact with asbestos at some point.
The campaign is focused on preventative measures to keep employees - as well as member of the public - safe and follows the results of a survey of 500 construction workers which revealed one fifth had no idea what to do if they came into contact with the deadly fibres.
It advises that before carrying out work, an employer should have an asbestos management plan detailing how asbestos will be managed if found.
This includes stopping work immediately, evacuating the area, removing equipment and materials, sealing off the site, adding warning signs and seeking professional help.
Employees should have access to the asbestos risk register, which is often based on an asbestos survey, and be provided with comprehensive training.
IOSH president Craig Foyle said it was unacceptable for anyone in any workplace to be exposed to asbestos.
“In the decades to come, it is likely that these people and their families will still be suffering unless we all do something about it,” he said.
When asbestos-containing materials deteriorate they can release fibres into the air but the greater risk to health arises when asbestos is damaged or if the material is drilled, sawn, scrubbed or sanded.
The shape and size of the fibres enables them to penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can stay for a long time causing possible damage to lung tissue.
This means that the people who are most at risk from asbestos are workers who disturb it without realising it is there while carrying out their work.
Exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma and pleural plaques but it can take up to 40 years to fully develop these asbestos-related lung diseases.
If you think you have been exposed to asbestos and suffer from a persistent cough, breathlessness, blood in your phlegm, loss of appetite or tiredness or you have an ache or pain in the chest or shoulder, you should seek medical advice.
To find out more contractors can visit www.notimetolose.org.uk and the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/managing/ . The HSE has also developed an app called beware-asbestos.info offering practical advice to contractors.