Safety Signs Blog

Asbestos Warning Signs, Why are they still so popular?

9th November 2010 | Warning Signs

Ten years ago the use of Asbestos was banned, never to be used in the UK again as a building material. Yet all these years on the ‘Warning Asbestos’ sign remains one of the UK’s most purchased safety signs. What this blog will attempt to understand is why?

When Asbestos was first produced, it was seen as a safe and extremely versatile building material. The building trade quickly grew fond of it, with many contractors specifying it for both new construction work and for refurbishments. As a result, it was used in a high number of building types; from offices and factories to schools and hospitals.

Of course, after years of use, scientists and medics discovered the extreme downside to this versatile and popular material. In its original state, asbestos is actually relatively safe. However, when it is cut, broken or damaged, the particles can become airborne, resulting in a deadly effect on human life.

Although the affect may not be immediate, through inhalation asbestos fibres can manifest themselves in the human body. Taking anything up to 15 years, the long term affect can be deadly, resulting on diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos related lung cancer and diffuse pleural thickening.

Today asbestos is known as the ‘hidden killer’. It is estimated that inhalation of asbestos fibres still directly results in around 4,000 deaths every year. Obviously, tradesmen who were working in any part of the building trade prior to 2000 are most at risk. However, with asbestos still existing in a very high number of buildings, asbestos inhalation can also affect tradesmen and diy-ers today.

One of the most at risk groups is the new generation of builders and maintenance workers who have not been educated in the dangers. These contractors or employees, often in their twenties, are perhaps most at risk as the news storm that accompanied the dangers and ban years ago may well have passed them by.

In view of the fact that asbestos is in many building structures today and an amount of ignorance about its dangers still exist, this is one area where a warning sign could genuinely save lives.

Businesses and other organisations clearly have a genuine duty of care to their employees and anyone else working at their site. If asbestos of any kind is known or found in their building, employers should use asbestos warning signs and self adhesive labels to clearly mark it.

In terms of how many, this is perhaps one area were the often used “less is more” phrase about safety signs does not apply. The more visual barriers there are against disturbing the asbestos the better. Position the safety signs on or around the hazard, whilst remembering not to disturb the fabric of the asbestos in any way. As a precautionary measure also consider wearing protective gloves, a mask and goggles before affixing any such safety signs.



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