Workers involved in repairing and replacing roofs are among tradespeople most at risk of exposure to dangerous asbestos, silica dust and other workplace carcinogens. They need to know how to identify hazardous substances and situations, and what steps to take.
Now, No Time to Lose (NTTL) information and advice about avoiding contact with these causes of cancer is set to reach more roofers thanks to the support of their trade body, the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC), one of our campaign pledge signatories, bolstered by new e-learning developed by the NFRC and asbestos consultants Gully Howard Technical.
The No Time to Lose campaign’s focus on asbestos was presented and NTTL-NFRC co-branded pocket cards for roofers were distributed on Friday 30 November during the first annual NFRC Contractors’ Day exhibition at Twickenham Stadium, London.
IOSH Vice-President Louise Hosking spoke about disturbing findings from IOSH’s survey of construction workers commissioned for the asbestos phase of NTTL. These included answers that revealed a third of survey respondents have never checked an asbestos register before starting work on a new site – with nearly half of those not even knowing there is a register.
Almost one fifth said if they discovered asbestos they wouldn’t be clear about what to do.
“Nearly one in four UK construction workers believe they may have been exposed to asbestos fibres, placing them at higher risk of contracting terminal cancers later in life,” said Louise.
She asked for a show of hands from the audience of those who thought they might have been exposed to asbestos in the past. Around half answered ‘yes’.
Louise co-presented with NFRC’s Gary Walpole, Health and Safety Officer at the NFRC, who explained why the NFRC supports No Time to Lose, and Kirsty Phillips from Gully Howard Technical, who developed the new e-learning course for roofers.
“Over 20 tradesmen die each week from asbestos-related diseases. We have to find new ways of engaging with them,” said Gary.
“At the No Time to Lose Asbestos launch in April this year, I met Kirsty’s boss, Jonathan Grant, and asked him to explore the possibilities of developing an asbestos-awareness course that we could use with our tradesmen.
“I think the benefit of e-learning is less time lost from site. The course that we’ve developed is available for all platforms and could be done while the contractor is sitting in a van. It could be raining or they could be on a break. And they could also stop the course halfway through, complete a little later, so it offers them more flexibility.”
The NFRC was a good opportunity to show the new e-learning course and NTTL resources to people from the roofing industry.
“Having co-hosted the asbestos presentation with IOSH Vice-President Louise Hosking, it is evident what a fantastic and timely opportunity this was,” said Kirsty Phillips, Training and Marketing Manager at Gully Howard Technical.
“Speaking to a room full of roofing industry professionals, it emerged that only a very small number of them were confidently able to identify where asbestos-containing materials might be found on an image of a school building. This is a clear indication that there is still a significant knowledge gap that needs to be bridged to enable construction workers to do their jobs safely.
“Contractors day was the perfect platform to share the work we have been doing in collaboration with the NFRC to consider some of the most common challenges faced when considering training, these include providing defined-scope training relevant to the delegate, the limited time available for training, budget, and being able to carry out training anywhere.”
For more information about the campaign and to sign up as a supporter, visit www.notimetolose.org.uk