A report by Mesothelioma UK and University of Sheffield recommends healthcare workers have mandatory asbestos awareness training. But is that enough? Tony Hood, national head of asbestos strategy at Thompsons explores further.


“Since 1972, when Thompsons brought about the first-ever successful case for asbestos-related disease compensation in the UK to the House of Lords, it has been essential that control of asbestos in the workplace was a priority for the future.

“Sadly, not enough has been done to implement and enforce the regulations that are supposed to control asbestos in the workplace. Even in 2020, more needs to be done by those in charge of public buildings to ensure that asbestos is properly managed, and the first step in this process has to be equipping workers to recognise asbestos and understand the risks associated with it.

“It is therefore extremely encouraging to see a new report entitled ‘MAGS – The Healthcare Staff Mesothelioma Asbestos Guidance Study’ recommending mandatory training in asbestos awareness for the UK healthcare workforce.

“Funded by Mesothelioma UK and prepared by the University of Sheffield, the 74-page document sets out a series of recommendations, including adding awareness of asbestos risk to the mandatory training for new members of NHS staff. It also recommends that NHS staff leaving the service should be reminded that asbestos still exists in most NHS premises and that asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma, are a possibility even when someone is no longer exposed to it.

“We welcome the MAGS report and its call for adding asbestos awareness to induction training of healthcare workers - it’s certainly a step in the right direction. However, such recommendations should not be limited to those working in healthcare. If this training was mandatory for all public sector workers, it could have a real impact across all sectors.

“Worryingly, nearly 700 schools have been recently referred to the national health and safety body over concerns they are failing to safely manage asbestos in their buildings. This means there are potentially thousands of staff and pupils who have been, and still are, at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. Terrifyingly, it is also thought that approximately 85 per cent of school buildings in England contain asbestos, particularly schools that were built between 1945 and 1975.

“Even though asbestos was banned more than 20 years ago, the truth is that it is still very much present in workplaces across the UK. This means it remains very much a part of our lives and will continue to devastate our future. To minimise the number of people dying in the long-term, we must train more people now on how to understand its risks so that future exposure to this dangerous substance can be avoided.”

Thompsons ran the claim in 1972 that established the right to compensation for UK asbestos victims and is today one of the leading asbestos solicitors firms in the UK.  As a point of principle, it only represents workers and their families who have developed asbestos diseases and never acts for employers, defendants or insurance companies. 

Find out more on asbestos disease claims here.