Unite calls for new asbestos law to save 5,000 lives a year

asbestosUnite is today calling for a new law requiring the safe, planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place.

Speaking at a conference in London to mark Mesothelioma Action Day, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail will say: “Sixteen years after asbestos was banned in the UK, exposure to asbestos, which causes the incurable disease mesothelioma, remains ‘an ever present danger’.”

White doves in memory of those that have died from mesothelioma will be released outside Farringdon tube near the Crossrail site at 10.40am.

Already nearly 13,500 members of Unite, who believe they have  been exposed to asbestos, have joined the union’s asbestos register as part of  the campaign to raise awareness about the silent killer.

Gail Cartmail will tell delegates: “There is no room for complacency by government and companies about the threat from asbestos.

“Past exposure to asbestos as a result of corporate negligence kills around 5,000 people a year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The true figure is likely to be much higher, and, we believe, is on the rise

“In the UK alone, we have already witnessed the tragedy of 60,000 deaths from mesothelioma and a further 90,000 people are expected to die from the effects of past asbestos exposure.

“We need a new asbestos eradication law requiring the safe, planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place across Britain – including a register of all properties which contain asbestos.

“This must be backed by an inspection and enforcement programme by health and safety bodies. such as the HSE, which must be properly resourced by the government.

“Asbestos use was finally banned from the UK in 1999,  but is still in many buildings built or refurbished before 2000  and still presents a danger to workers in many workplaces – at least 500,000 non-domestic premises and probably around a million domestic premises.

“Construction workers and maintenance workers, such as electricians, are the most at risk. But so are workers in schools, factories, hospitals, public buildings and offices, if asbestos is present and those working in domestic premises.  Children risk being exposed in schools.

“The only way to remove the danger and protect future generations is to eradicate asbestos from all workplaces.”

Unite Legal Services provides free, specialist legal advice and support to members and their families who have suffered the devastating effects of asbestos disease.