The British Lung Foundation (BLF) is launching ′Take 5 and Stay Alive’, a major campaign designed to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos amongst tradespeople.
Every week on average 20 tradesmen (6 electricians, 4 plumbers and 8 joiners) die in the UK from exposure to asbestos making it the single greatest cause of work-related deaths. 
Although it is now illegal to use asbestos, this ban was only imposed in 2000 – meaning any building built or renovated before then could contain asbestos. Research shows that there is a worrying lack of information and training amongst small employers and sole traders, with workers not seeing it as a big risk or worrying about losing jobs and money if they raise concerns, and not knowing how to identify asbestos and what to do if they find it.
When disturbed and inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause a range of illnesses, including the terminal chest cancer mesothelioma. The tiny invisible particles stick to clothes, meaning that as well as risking their own lives, workers can be unknowingly putting their family members, colleagues and friends at risk.
The BLF’s Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to ensure tradespeople have the knowledge to act safely and responsibly, ensuring they can identify asbestos and determine what type it is, and assess whether they have the training and equipment to deal with it safely.
British Lung Foundation Chief Executive Dr Penny Woods said: “Twice as many people die from asbestos-related illnesses than on the roads each year in Britain. It’s the biggest work-related killer, and the numbers of deaths associated with it are rising each year. Sole traders and people working for small companies are often under particular pressure to take jobs and deliver quickly, and this can sometimes put them at particular risk of asbestos exposure. But it’s not just tradespeople putting their own lives at risk. If asbestos is disturbed the particles can affect others too, and we know several women who have died after years of washing their husbands’ contaminated overalls. Our Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to give tradespeople the tools to act responsibly. We want to ensure they can identify asbestos wherever and in whatever form it might be present, and know how to deal with it safely. Our message is simple - taking just five minutes to assess the situation could save your life, and keep your family, friends, clients and business safe from exposure to potentially fatal asbestos dust.”
Taking risks with asbestos. What influences the behaviour of maintenance workers? (Health and Safety Executive report 2007)
All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety: Asbestos in Schools, The Need For Action. 2012. Page 4
The Joint Industry Board (JIB) for the electrical contracting
industry is raising awareness of asbestosis and related
diseases with the help of an electrical contractor currently
living with the condition. In this short video JIB member and
Electrical Contractors' Association past president Alan
North describes the symptoms he suffered and his
experiences since he was diagnosed earlier this year with
mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by asbestos.