Last reviewed 8 October 2013

The British Lung Foundation has launched a new campaign — Take 5 and Stay Alive — aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos among tradespeople.

According to the Foundation, every week in the UK, an average of 20 tradespeople die from exposure to asbestos, making it the single greatest cause of work-related deaths among this group. Research shows there is a worrying lack of information and training among 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.

The current campaign aims to redress this by ensuring that tradespeople have the knowledge to act safely and responsibly, ensure they can identify asbestos and what type it is, and assess whether they have the training and equipment to deal with it safely.

It provides tradespeople with a five step question and answer approach to working safely with asbestos.

  1. Do you suspect there is asbestos on site?

  2. Can you be sure it is asbestos?

  3. What is the level of risk and how do you handle it safely?

  4. Have you had the right type of training?

  5. Are you taking precautions to minimise the risks?

Launching the campaign, the British Lung Foundation’s 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.”