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Training pledge launched to tackle asbestos deaths

A poignant target of 4000 hours of free asbestos awareness training has been set in a new initiative to help tradesmen across Britain protect themselves from the deadly dust.

A target of 4000 hours of free asbestos awareness training has been set in a new initiative to help tradesmen across Britain protect themselves from the deadly dust

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in partnership with the training industry, is calling for those who run training course to pledge free hours during September to hit a target of 4,000; the approximate number of deaths each year from asbestos-related diseases.

It is hoped that 4,000 face-to-face training hours and an additional 4,000 hours of online training will be offered up by various providers.

The free training will be available throughout October and November and is aimed at tradesmen such as joiners, electricians and plumbers who are most likely to disturb the fibres as they go about their work.

Karen Clayton, HSE's Director for long latency health risks, commented: "Our ‘Hidden Killer’ campaign is helping tradesmen understand the lifesaving fact that asbestos exposure is not just an historical problem. Around half a million public buildings still contain it. This new initiative, a continuation of the campaign, is all about tradesmen finding out exactly what they need to do to protect themselves by taking advantage of free training.

"There is sadly little we can do to help those who are already suffering the often fatal effects of asbestos exposure in the workplace, but we can prevent this hidden killer claiming another generation.

"Through industry playing its part and asbestos support groups helping us to get the messages out about the importance of training, we can all do something practical to ensure that the risk to workers is minimised."

Across Britain, more than 40,000 people have died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma since the late 1960s, and the numbers dying are increasing. Indeed, the latest annual figures show that 2,249 people died from the disease in 2008 alone, up over 3% on the previous year.

Tony Whitson, Chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum, added: "Each day we visit newly diagnosed mesothelioma sufferers who were never warned of the dangers of asbestos at work and who never knew how essential it was to avoid exposure to asbestos. As we confront the awful legacy from past exposure, the importance of asbestos awareness and training today cannot be exaggerated; it's absolutely vital. That is why, in the name of all those whose lives have been lost to asbestos disease, we give our wholehearted support to this initiative, which seeks to provide free asbestos training and, most importantly, publicise the importance of asbestos training provision."

Independent Asbestos Training Providers (IATP) and the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) are working with HSE by inviting their members to pledge. Members of the Asbestos Safety Health Environmental e-Learning Association (ASHEeLA) are also invited to provide free online training courses.

Max Lopacki from ASHEeLA said: "With around 20 tradespeople dying each week from asbestos-related diseases our members are wholeheartedly supporting HSE's initiative by pledging 20 free asbestos awareness eLearning courses per day. The pledged courses will be available online via our members' websites and can be taken at anytime. This is a very convenient way to access asbestos awareness training and will help hundreds of at-risk tradespeople learn how to protect themselves from this Hidden Killer."

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