Following the recent report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of a rise in asbestos-related deaths across England and Wales comes news from the Northern Ireland General Register Office that mesothelioma and asbestosis disease were the “primary or secondary causes” of around 75 deaths each year.

As with the HSE report for England and Wales, which appeared to reflect the consistent findings of a number of coroner’s reports, the NI Register Office also suggests there was a likelihood that another 40 lung cancer deaths each year could also be related to asbestos exposure.

According to the Northern Ireland online news site, UTV, the latest government report also reveals there were more than 300 estimated deaths from asbestos exposure in the last five years alone.

Asbestos-disease sufferers in Northern Ireland were the last to have the ability to make an asbestosis claim for the presence of pleural plaques reinstated (following Scotland) in December 2011 after it was first withdrawn four years earlier by a House of Lords ruling.

Exposure to asbestos can almost always be indicated by a confirmed diagnosis of pleural plaques in up to 50 per cent of sufferers. In addition, the presence of an asbestosis disease, such as pleural plaques can often be linked to patients who have also developed the incurable, malignant mesothelioma cancer, despite the plaques being neither cancerous nor tumour forming in themselves.

The figures from Northern Ireland are a timely reminder for the constant need of asbestos awareness to the real and present danger that asbestos still poses today, especially for those in the front line of likely exposure, such as builders, demolition contractors, plumbers, electricians, plasterers, painters and decorators, etc.

The reports coincide with the start on January 7th 2013 of a new initiative by the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) called the Asbestos Training Pledge NI.

Over a twelve week period, Irish building and construction tradespeople will be given free training and a valuable opportunity to increase their knowledge about asbestos-containing materials and the required procedures to safely handle, contain and dispose of the deadly material when uncovered. Property and premises duty-holders are also invited to apply.

1000 free course places on a ‘first come, first served’ basis have been pledged by training providers in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which will be available in e-learning or classroom-based formats.

Click here for more information on Asbestos Training Pledge NI at the HSENI website or call 0800 0320 121.