Tradespeople - including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators - could come into contact with deadly asbestos more than 100 times per year, according to a survey commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
As well as illustrating how often tradespeople could be exposed to asbestos, the survey revealed some common myths believed by those at risk. One person in seven (14%) believed drinking a glass of water would protect them, and one in four (27%) thought opening a window would keep them safe.
Only a third (30%) of respondents were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working, while more than half (57%) made at least one potentially lethal mistake when trying to identify how to stay safe.
On average, 20 tradespeople die every week from asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos can be found in walls and ceilings, or the structure of a building, as well as a host of other places including floor tiles, boilers, toilet cisterns, guttering and soffits.
It can be disturbed by basic maintenance work such drilling holes and sanding, and once disturbed the microscopic fibres can cause potentially lethal lung disease and cancer.
The research, undertaken by Censuswide in September 2014, showed that while more than half (53%) of respondents knew that asbestos could be found in buildings constructed before 1970, only 15% were aware it could be found in buildings built up to 2000.
To encourage tradespeople to think about asbestos, the HSE has launched a new safety campaign.
Health and safety minister Mark Harper launched the campaign at the TradePoint in Cricklewood, north London. TradePoint is supporting the campaign by distributing asbestos safety kits to tradespeople through their stores across the country.
A key feature of the campaign is the creation of an app that helps people identify where they could come into contact with the material as they go about their day-to-day work. The app gives tailored help on how to deal with asbestos-related risks.
Mr Harper said: “The number dying every year from asbestos-related diseases is unacceptably high. Despite being banned in the construction industry, asbestos exposure remains a serious risk. This campaign is about highlighting the risks and the easy measures people can take to protect themselves. We hope the safety kits and the app will encourage people to be aware of the risks, think twice and take precautions to stay safe.”