LRD Booklets February 2007

Tackling asbestos at work - a trade unionist's guide


Asbestos is the biggest workplace killer in the UK. It is found in hundreds of thousands of workplaces - in offices, schools, hospitals, factories, theatres, studios as well as on construction sites. It is a hazard that can affect any worker in any workplace.

In the next two generations, at least 50,000 people will die every year from exposure to asbestos. The TUC estimates the overall death toll may reach a quarter of a million people.

Unions have been at the forefront of campaigns on asbestos - but many employers have not done enough to make workplaces safe.

Chapter 1 of this booklet contains research and case studies illustrating the risks of exposure to asbestos.

Chapter 2 sets out how the law - including the new Control of Asbestos Regulations can be used to get employers to manage asbestos. While unions have generally welcomed the regulations, there are concerns about the removal of textured coatings from the licensing regime.

Chapter 3 sets out examples of campaigns, guidance and agreements on asbestos produced by unions. It contains reports from 150 workplaces surveyed by the Labour Research Department (LRD) in 2006, with examples of good practice but also some horror stories. We have included a checklist on asbestos to help reps.

Chapter 4 outlines how to get compensation for asbestos-related disease as well as important court cases unions have won for victims and their families. A directory of asbestos-support groups is also included.

Union and safety reps can use the book to ensure their employer is complying with the law, to negotiate the best possible protection for all workers and to campaign for further improvements.

Alan Dalton (1946-2003) wrote the last LRD booklet on asbestos in 1983. A tireless opponent of the asbestos industry and government inaction, his unwavering stance has been utterly vindicated. This booklet is dedicated to his memory.