UKATA urges construction industry employers to ensure apprentices are asbestos aware

Electrical apprentice

In an effort to halt the growing numbers of tradespeople contracting fatal asbestos related diseases, one of the UK’s leading authorities on asbestos training is urging employers to deliver asbestos awareness training to all apprentices.

Research has shown that younger people, if routinely exposed to asbestos fibres over time, are at greater risk of developing deadly asbestos related diseases than older workers.

Providing apprentices with key information about asbestos at an early stage will enable them to challenge poor work practices and protect themselves.

Craig Evans, Chief Operating Officer of the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA), urged: “With the death toll from occupational exposure reaching crisis levels in the UK, UKATA is calling on all employers of apprentices working in trades, to receive asbestos awareness training as soon as possible, whether that’s through a college or with their employer.”

Apprentice electricians, plumbers, carpenters. joiners, heating and ventilation engineers, painters and decorators are just some of the 1.3 million tradespeople that are at risk from exposure to the killer building material. And the facts are startling:

  • Asbestos kills around 20 tradespeople in the UK every week, making it the single biggest cause of work-related deaths (
  • Electricians are almost 16 times more likely than the general population to develop the killer lung disease mesothelioma in their lifetime. (Occupational, domestic and environmental mesothelioma risks in the British population: a case-control study.)
  • Asbestos exposure kills 4 plumbers every week (Health & Safety Executive)
  • 598 carpenters and joiners died between 1991-2000 as a result of an asbestos disease
  • 1 in 17 British carpenters born in the 1940s will die of mesothelioma (Cancer Research UK and Health & Safety Executive)
  • The UK has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world. The risk is highest in people who were exposed to asbestos before age 30. (Institute of Cancer Research)

Despite the well-publicised health risks posed by asbestos, a 2017 survey conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of 500 tradespeople showed that less than a third were aware of the correct ways to deal with and handle asbestos in the workplace.

Craig explained: “It’s never too early to deliver asbestos awareness training to your workforce. The statistics show that the earlier in a person’s career they receive the appropriate training, then the better protected they are against developing asbestos related cancers in later life.

“A simple half day awareness course could prevent them from contracting a deadly disease and also ensure they don’t expose others to the dangers of asbestos.”

To ensure young people have access to asbestos awareness training before entering the workplace, UKATA is supporting the Learning Occupational Health by Experiencing Risks (LOcHER) project.

The LOcHER project idea originated within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and aims to support colleges to help students develop valuable employment and life skills, so they feel equipped to lead change in their careers and the industries into which they progress.

For employers whose apprentices are yet to receive asbestos awareness training, UKATA advises that they access UKATA approved asbestos awareness training, either with a local provider or online.

“Asbestos awareness training is low cost and readily available. I urge all employers to book their apprentices on these half-day courses and provide them with a safe foundation for a long and safe career within the construction industry,” added Craig.

UKATA approved asbestos awareness courses are available both online and in training centres throughout the UK. Alternatively, the training provider may deliver on site. 

To find a UKATA approved asbestos training provider near you, visit or for free advice call our team on 01246 824437.


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BDC 317 : Jun 2024