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Asbestos has been the main cause of occupational ill health from about 1950 onwards and is still the greatest single work-related cause of death from ill health. Over 5,000 people die prematurely every year as a result of asbestos exposure.

These deaths are tragic for the people involved, causing immense pain and suffering to them and their relatives, friends and colleagues.

Safety reps play an important role in controlling workplace risks and can help to prevent exposure to asbestos. You are entitled to be provided with any information you need on asbestos, including any risk assessments and surveys. You should also be consulted on your employer’s plans to manage asbestos.

The TUC and HSE have jointly produced guidance for safety representatives on managing asbestos as well as HSE asbestos pages.

However, simple regulations for managing asbestos in the workplace, however good, will never protect workers from risk. So long as asbestos is found in any place where someone could be exposed there will be a danger. The only way we will eradicate mesothelioma in Britain is by safely removing asbestos. Only that way can we ensure that future generations will not have to experience the same deadly epidemic from asbestos-related diseases that we suffer today.

If we are to protect future generations from the risk of exposure to this deadly fibre, we need a new law on asbestos with a clear timetable for the eradication of asbestos in every single workplace in Britain. The all-party group on occupational health and safety has produced a report outlining the case for eradication. 

The TUC is calling for new legislation requiring all employers to remove all asbestos rather than just “manage” it. Meanwhile, the TUC has produced a negotiating guide on how to try to eradicate asbestos in your workplace.

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