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HSE to focus on dust and asbestos in construction industry inspection initiative

During mid-June to mid-July, HSE’s campaign activity will once more include a focus on health in the construction industry, with an emphasis on lung disease – in particular where lung disease has been caused by exposure to asbestos and dust.

Why the Construction Industry?

Despite much focus during recent years, there’s still a considerable and continuing need to improve health, and highlight the need for improvement, in the construction sector – the following facts demonstrate the need for increased effort:

  • Construction workers in the UK are 100 times more likely to die from an occupational disease than a workplace accident

  • It’s not only the commonly known materials such as asbestos and Silica that can cause lung disease - there are multiple hazards, including: wood dust; diesel exhaust fumes; welding fumes; solvents; isocyanates; resin vapours

  • During a twelve month period amongst construction workers, there are approximately: 5,500 new occupational cancer cases; 2,800 deaths from past exposures to asbestos; 600 deaths from exposure to silica dust

What Needs to be Done?

Naturally, health and safety in general should be a priority on all construction projects, and everyone has a duty to play a leading part in this and achieve the required standards - whether they be a client, designer, Contractor, manager, supervisor or employee. The key messages for action are straightforward:

  • Know the risks

  • Use the right controls

  • Plan your work

By understanding the main risks to health and the measures required to eliminate, substitute, control these, workers can be better protected - and ultimately this will help achieve the aim to eradicate ill health and disease from the construction industry. Progress can also be made by sharing best practice examples – such as case studies: HCLG’s website features a number of construction industry case studies, as do some of the campaigns below.

Free Resources and Advice

Recent years have seen a number of campaigns launched, focusing on worker health and protecting workers from lung disease. These have resulted in a vast range of valuable, freeadvice and resources being made widely available and easily accessible to everyone:

  • HSE’s Go Home Healthy campaign: one of the main areas of focus for this initiative is lung disease, and in-depth information and a number of resources are available on HSE’s website

  • IOSH’s No Time to Lose (NTTL) campaign: ‘A wake up call to cancer caused by work’ highlights the need for a wider understanding of carcinogen exposure issues and how businesses can take action. Free resources include those related to asbestos, silica dust and diesel fumes i.e. known risks to lung health

  • BOHS’s Breathe Freely campaign: ‘Controlling exposures to prevent occupational lung disease in construction’ is the primary aim of this campaign, and the Breathe Freely website contains a vast and wide range of resources – all specifically developed for the construction industry

What Next?

HSE’s initiative will continue to shine a spotlight on health, and demonstrate where progress is being made and where room for improvement remains. Supporting the above campaigns on social media will help achieve wider awareness of the issues; what action needs to happen; and the wide range of available resources.

By working together as leaders in the industry, and by sharing best practice, everyone can make a difference and play their part in raising standards to improve worker health protection in the construction industry.


BOHS: Breathe Freely


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