A rise in asbestos-related diseases

The number of asbestos-related diseases in the construction industry continues to rise. Therefore, when demolition, renovation and maintenance workers continue to come into contact with asbestos, the highest standard of safety is urgently needed.

The full extent of the asbestos disaster is becoming increasingly apparent: There were 119 deaths from asbestos recorded in 1994 in the construction industry, and 281 in 2012. So in 2012, there were over three times more deaths than from asbestos than fatal accidents in the construction industry. The number of suspected cases of occupational diseases caused by asbestos has increased from just over 900 in 1994 to 2,038 in 2012. Between 1994 and 2012 more than 4,000 construction workers died as a result of asbestos.

Unfortunately, the prognosis is not good: the incidence rate is expected to reach its peak over the next few years. The diseases don’t occur usually until decades after exposure. Many of them go back to hazards between the 1960s and 1980s, when workers were still without adequate protective measures to work. Today, employees can come from demolition, alteration or repair work and still be exposed to asbestos.

Work can involve removing asbestos cement slabs, flooring or adhesive residue, as well as the maintenance of heating systems with asbestos-containing gaskets. These are just some examples of working with the hazardous substance.

The needle-shaped particles of asbestos dust mean they don’t dissolve in contrast to many other fibres in the body and are deposited in the lungs or will penetrate the lung tissue. Result: The lung is damaged and breathing becomes increasingly difficult. The disease risk increases with the amount of fibre loading.

The asbestos related pneumoconiosis (asbestosis) is one of the most common occupational diseases. Some even more serious and are malignant – lung cancer is caused by asbestos disease, along with laryngeal cancer and pleural cancer. In rare cases, the peritoneum or the pericardium is affected.

In order to ensure the protection of workers from asbestos-related diseases, it must be clarified before beginning demolition, renovation and maintenance work, whether asbestos was used in the building materials. Here, the client is asked needs to be asked in particular, to provide this information.

Only on this basis is it possible to identify asbestos hazards and establish the necessary protective measures. These include in particular, a dust-free work process, special site equipment and the consistent use of personal protective equipment in the form of respiratory protection and protective clothing. Also, the work should be performed only under the supervision of a competent, qualified person.