The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) has raised concerns after figures reveal that its asbestos training in the construction industry has fallen by two thirds since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic an average of 18,000 workers a month completed asbestos training. During the last six months (March – August), an average of 6,000 workers a month undertook asbestos training delivered by UKATA-approved training providers, a fall of more than 66%.
Craig Evans, Chief Operating Officer of UKATA, said: “Our concern is health and safety training is being overlooked as construction sites push to make up for time lost during the lockdown. This not only increases construction workers’ risk of exposure to deadly asbestos but also the buildings’ users.”
Asbestos-related health issues, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, are not identified immediately after exposure to asbestos. It takes between 15 years and up to 60 years before deadly asbestos-related diseases present themselves.
Since 2018, there have been more than 5,000 deaths annually in the UK from asbestos-related cancers – the largest single industrial killer ever seen in the UK.
The HSE recommends that asbestos refresher training courses should be undertaken to help ensure knowledge of asbestos awareness is maintained. The asbestos regulations also make it clear that asbestos training for non-licensable and licensable asbestos works should be carried out at least annually.
To ensure asbestos training continues to be accessible during the pandemic, UKATA approved its 200-member companies and individuals to deliver asbestos courses by video conference technology.
Craig Evans added: “It is now vitally important that all construction employers and workers ensure that all asbestos training is up-to-date. These are difficult times, but this is a matter of life or death.”
The majority of UKATA-approved training providers are now fully operational and either delivering courses remotely online or face-to-face observing social distancing guidelines.
To find a UKATA member in your area delivering asbestos training visit www.UKATA.org.uk