The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to deliver a wake-up call to tradesman that asbestos is as dangerous as ever.
About half a million public buildings still contain the potentially lethal mineral, which was used extensively as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid 1980s.
A new training initiative, launched this week by the regulator, is designed to make people aware that the so-called silent killer – the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK – is not a historical problem.
According to the regulator, across Britain deaths from asbestos-related conditions are on the rise – more than 40,000 people have died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma since the late 1960s - with the numbers dying increasing.
The latest annual figures show that 2,249 people died from the disease in 2008 alone, up by over three per cent on the previous year.
The HSE's Hidden Killer campaign is calling on training providers to pledge 4,000 free hours of training during September – one hour for every death each year in Britain from asbestos-related diseases.
Free training will be available throughout October and November and is aimed at those most likely to disturb asbestos fibres as they go about their work – joiners, electricians and plumbers, 20 of whom lose their lives to asbestos-related diseases every week.
The HSE's Karen Clayton said: "Our Hidden Killer campaign is helping tradesmen understand the lifesaving fact that asbestos exposure is not just an historical problem - around half a million public buildings still contain it.
"There is sadly little we can do to help those who are already suffering the often fatal effects of asbestos exposure in the workplace, but we can prevent this hidden killer claiming another generation."
There are four main diseases associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres – asbestosis, mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and diffuse pleural thickening.