Annual Asbestos-Related Deaths Still High, Report Finds

Asbestos Work-Related Death

Asbestos-related deaths in the UK are still exceeding 5,000 a year according to the latest figures released by the Health and Safety Executive.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its annual report into asbestos-related disease in the UK, which shows that asbestos exposure continues to be the biggest workplace killer with over 5,000 recorded asbestos-related deaths in 2021.

The report also shows that:

  • Mesothelioma – a form of cancer – was the deadliest of all asbestos-related conditions, with a recorded 2,268 deaths
  • The remaining fatalities were made up of a combination of lung cancer, other cancers and the condition asbestosis
  • Asbestos-related fatalities are highest among those aged 75 and older
  • Death rates are levelling off in line with HSE’s projections but remain high

Biggest Workplace Killer

The report shows that the vast majority of asbestos-related deaths were linked to exposure in an occupational context, which makes asbestos the biggest workplace killer for another consecutive year.

Since asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999, current fatalities are rooted in past asbestos exposure. This is shown by the majority of asbestos-related deaths recorded by the HSE occurring among ages 75 and over – the demographic most likely to have worked with asbestos prior to its prohibition.

Statistics also show that death rates for those 65 and under are falling. A trend which has continued for several decades now. This decline is expected as we move further past 1999.

With the death rate increasing for those older than 75 and decreasing for those younger than 65, overall fatalities have started to level off. The HSE expects these figures to stay consistent for the rest of the decade.

asbestos-related disease deaths

Further Resources

You can read the full report from the HSE and if you think you are at risk, the HSE also offers further guidance on asbestos exposure.

Future Plans

Looking at the figures, it is easy to view asbestos exposure as a problem of the past.

However, due to the latency period between exposure and asbestos-related diseases, it is difficult to say with any certainty how the numbers will look in the coming decades. Asbestos is still estimated to be present in around 1.5 million buildings in the UK, including schools and hospitals. And as we move forward in time, the risk of asbestos deteriorating and releasing harmful fibres increases.

Our range of online asbestos training courses covers both the essential awareness every at-risk employee needs and asbestos management courses for duty holders. Whatever your requirements, our courses will prepare you to work safely around the material, reduce the risk of exposure and protect yourself and others from the threat of asbestos.

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Jonathan Goby
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