But there is an even bigger industrial safety scandal taking place. At least 10,000, and maybe 100,000, workers (no one knows the exact figure), are employed in the asbestos removal industry. Recent studies, by Professor Julian Peto, have shown that cancers from asbestos exposure are set to rise, for the next 30 years, to about 9,000 a year. In Professor Peto's words, this is 'far and away the most important occupational cause of cancer'.
Nine hundred companies are registered to remove asbestos, and perhaps 50 can do it safely; if the tender price allows. The more responsible managers of asbestos removal companies tell me that inspection of their work by an HSE inspector is a very rare event. The asbestos licensing scheme itself is administered by just two HSE inspectors, both of whom are near retirement age.
Who is the HSE protecting?
A. J. P. DALTON
Centre for Industrial and Environmental Safety and Health
South Bank University
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