Asbestos: Are Construction Workers of Great Britain truly aware of the risks?

Knibbs, Graeme (2016) Asbestos: Are Construction Workers of Great Britain truly aware of the risks? [Dissertation]

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The physical properties of the ‘miracle mineral’ has meant its prolonged use in the construction industry, mainly for its tensile strength, low cost, ability to reinforce, and resist fire. The product is responsible for being the largest occupational killer in GB, so its initial low-cost is now at a premium for those having to clear-up the legacy. With mortality rates from asbestosis and pleural plaques on the decline, mesothelioma is now the greatest risk GB construction workers face from inhaled asbestos fibres, mainly due to the unknown dose-response relationship. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 with 2012 changes has attempted to minimise this risk by introducing legislation to control the way asbestos is handled, but exposure is still on-going issue for the industry. This study aimed to examine the Great British construction refurbishment industry and the potential link between asbestos exposure and workers’ knowledge and behaviour towards the material.
The main question arising was, why is exposure still happening: is it the current regulations are not effective, does training or knowledge offer increased protection, or is it worker behaviour that affects their potential of becoming exposed to asbestos fibres? A quantitative approach was taken to investigate this area of research. Utilising social media and a cloud-based survey software, an online questionnaire was distributed and collated. Social media ‘groups’ of tradespeople were targeted using a ‘virtual snowballing sampling’ technique, delivering 603 participants; 440 valid respondents fully completing the survey. The research established that there was nothing to suggest the dangers of asbestos are not understood by construction workers in the industry, but exposure still happens at some level. Due to the unknown risk of developing mesothelioma through inhalation, it has concluded the levels of exposure are currently unacceptable and legislation should be changed to protect the construction worker; particularly the small to medium entrepreneurs in the industry.

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