Latest figures released in the first week of March by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that in 2011 there were 1,985 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, and more than 8 in 10 deaths from the fatal, incurable cancer were among males.

According to the HSE, the annual mesothelioma death rate had increased to 1,967 by 2010, one of the highest global figures, and is estimated to rise until at least 2016. The fatality figures for both males and females is also on an upward trend reaching 65.1 and 12.9 deaths per million, respectively, in 2008-2010 compared with 24.0 and 3.3 in 1984-1986.

Although mesothelioma rates have fallen slightly over the last three years in the North West, London, South East and the South West, overall there is still an upward trend shown for males for most regions. There is also some evidence that rates for the different regions also converge over a period of time. This means that regions with the lowest rates in earlier periods tend to show the biggest increase while those with higher rates, a lower increase.

As has been repeatedly reported, HSE state that it was – and still is – tradesmen, such as builders, plumbers and electricians who worked in the building industry during the peak asbestos use years between 1940 and 1980 who are now among those most at risk of mesothelioma or other asbestosis diseases.

HSE continue to organise asbestos awareness and training courses for new generations of building workers who may not fully realise the extent of the current problem. Too often, cases are heard where asbestos surveys have not been carried out or their findings not communicated to all contractors.

In worst-case scenarios, asbestos building materials, such as insulation board or garage roofing is simply broken up on-site and removed to a standard waste skip by workers unaware of the deadly health risks to themselves or others working or living in the building.

The latest HSE asbestos training courses – in association with the Working Well Together (WWT) partnership made up of 17 regional organisations – will show young tradespeople that asbestos still poses a health threat despite being no longer used as an insulation material in the construction industry. However, it is estimated that around half a million properties around Britain still contain asbestos in the form of white chrysotile, which was only banned from import at the end of 1999.

The half-day training sessions, designed for sole traders and major employers, are accredited by the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA), and will run in the South and East Yorkshire towns of Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull, Beverley and Goole on a “first come, first served” basis from the 20th March to 2nd April.

Click here to find out more about the asbestos courses run by Working Well Together or contact Jan Foers, HSE event coordinator on 07786 190938.