Latest mesothelioma stats remind us of the need for effective asbestos management

Alex W 2023

Alex Wild
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
13th July 2022

Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer that affects the mesothelium (the cells that line the inner cavities of the body) and is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres which the human body is unable to break down. These fibres are extremely fine in nature and are able to travel to other parts of the body away from the lungs where the damage they cause to cells leads to scarring and mutations which can lead to cancerous growths.

The effects of asbestos fibres can take anywhere from 15-60 years to present themselves which has led to a long lasting legacy of ill health despite the use of asbestos products being banned in the UK since 1999. This long latency period means that the highest incidences by age are within those over the age of 70, likely due to these people being exposed to asbestos much earlier in their working life. We know that during most of the last century, industrial use of asbestos was widespread, the use of appropriate PPE was less common and the awareness of the dangers asbestos poses not as well understood. 

The report shows that;

  • the average annual incidences of deaths from mesothelioma in Great Britain have stayed at just over 2500 which is in line with the average death rate of 2523 over the period from 2012-19;
  • deaths from mesothelioma in men exceed those in women by around 4 to 1; and
  • that up to 85% of these deaths were the result of exposure to asbestos in a work setting. This is largely due to the industries that relied heavily on the use of asbestos were traditionally male dominated during the period when the use of asbestos was most widespread.

But whilst there is little we can do to rewind the clock on the legacy cases of mesothelioma, we do have the opportunity to protect todays workers from the risk of developing this deeply unpleasant and fatal disease for future generations.

Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 there are strict rules in place for those who work on asbestos, particularly those involved in its removal from buildings. The overwhelming majority of reputable companies undertaking such work do so with suitable controls in place to prevent themselves or anyone else being exposed to asbestos fibres. The concern lies with the day to day management of asbestos in our buildings, where a lack of suitable checks on the condition of asbestos containing materials and a failure to train staff to be aware of it’s presence, often leads to accidental exposure.

Assurity Consulting have been contacted on numerous occasions over the years where someone had made a hole in a wall or split a ceiling tile in two before realising that these potentially contained asbestos. When a contractor is involved it is typically found that they were not provided with details of the building asbestos register, a common mistake, but one which can have lasting consequences.

To ensure you are compliant it is important that you have a suitable asbestos management system in place,  that is kept up to date and regularly reviewed and to remember that your plan doesn’t start and end with your asbestos survey but is an ongoing process in the general good management of health and safety within your business.

At Assurity Consulting we have the expertise to help support you with your asbestos management and can provide you with the tools to keep people safe in your buildings.