It was worrying to learn this week that asbestos training in the construction industry is at its lowest level for five years.

The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) has raised concerns about the lack of asbestos training in the industry that has been undertaken since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is because since the re-opening of construction sites in May, the number of workers undertaking asbestos training courses continues to remain well below average.

Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, an average of 18,000 workers a month completed asbestos training and over the last six months (March-August), an average of 6,000 workers a month undertook asbestos training delivered by UKATA-approved providers, a fall of more than 66%.

We fully understand that Covid-19 is undoubtedly the main reason for this massive drop and that this virus has impacted our lives in so many ways, causing us to change the way we used to do things.

But like with rises in mental health cases, people having to wait for cancer treatment and other medical procedures and regular optical and dental checks all being put on hold, not undertaking important health and safety training like this is also a sad and another potentially dangerous consequence of Covid-19.

Deaths from asbestos exposure have increased dramatically in the last 15 years after widespread use between the 1950s and 70s. Since 2018, there have been more than 5,000 deaths annually in the UK from asbestos-related cancers – the largest single industrial killer ever seen in the UK.

The HSE recommends that refresher training courses should be undertaken to help ensure awareness is maintained, so by not doing this, there’s an increased risk of increased exposure if people are not aware of the dangers.

UKATA are correct in pointing out that the latency period of asbestos – it can take between 15 and 60 years before asbestos-related diseases present themselves, – coupled with a substantial drop in training numbers, could mean that the UK will be facing a greater amount of deaths from asbestos over the decades to come. Let’s hope that is not the case however.

As a UKATA approved asbestos awareness trainer (category A), Eton, like all of the 200-member companies, are able deliver our asbestos courses by video conferencing technology to make it easier for companies and individuals in any sector to access during these difficult and challenging times.

There’s no sign of Covid-19 ending anytime soon, so if you work in the construction industry, or any other sector where there’s a chance of asbestos being in a building, don’t put this off any longer.

When it comes to something as serious as asbestos, it literally could mean the difference between life and death.