Asbestos and mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer. It can be caused by breathing in asbestos fibres and it affects the thin, protective membrane around the lungs.

After coming into contact with asbestos fibres it can take up to 50 years for symptoms to develop. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma – it is a terminal disease.

Watch Simon's Story: living with an Asbestos-related disease.

Why is asbestos a problem in construction?

Most buildings that were built before the millennium may contain asbestos in some form.

There is a greater risk of exposure to asbestos fibres for people working in refurbishment, renovation, demolition, and repairs and maintenance, if proper control methods are not in place.

How to protect yourself at work

If you are working on a building that could contain asbestos, you should:

  • follow any system of work that your employer has in place
  • make sure you wear your personal protective equipment (PPE) properly
  • stop work , keep away and warn others if you think you have discovered asbestos
  • never assume that all the asbestos has already been found
  • attend medical surveillance, if requested to do so by your employer.

Control measures

People responsible for the repair, maintenance and management of buildings that may contain asbestos are required to carry out an appropriate survey (usually a management survey).

The purpose of a management survey is to locate and confirm the extent of any asbestos containing materials, which could be damaged or disturbed by daily work (such as normal occupancy and building maintenance).

Survey information should then be made available (through an asbestos register) to all employers whose workers could be exposed to affected areas.

A more intrusive survey must be completed before the refurbishment or demolition of a building containing asbestos.

Appropriate steps can then be taken to safely encapsulate or remove the material.

Further information

More information on working safely and managing the risks from asbestos is available from the Health and Safety Executive

The film is also available to watch and share on CITB's YouTube channel

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