The Health and Safety Executive has launched an initiative to help provide 4,000 hours of free asbestos awareness training for tradesmen, equivalent to one hour per asbestos related death each year.
In partnership with the training industry the safety watchdog is calling on training providers to pledge free hours during September.
It is hoped that 4000 face-to-face training hours and an additional 4,000 hours of online training will be offered up by various providers.
The free training will be available throughout October and November and is aimed at tradesmen such as joiners, electricians and plumbers who are most likely to disturb the fibres as they go about their work - around 20 a week lose their lives to asbestos-related diseases.
HSE’s director for long latency health risks Karen Clayton said: “Our Hidden Killer campaign is helping tradesmen understand the lifesaving fact that asbestos exposure is not just an historical problem - around half a million public buildings still contain it.
“This new initiative, a continuation of the campaign, is all about tradesmen finding out exactly what they need to do to protect themselves by taking advantage of free training.
“There is sadly little we can do to help those who are already suffering the often fatal effects of asbestos exposure in the workplace, but we can prevent this hidden killer claiming another generation.
“Through industry playing its part and asbestos support groups helping us to get the messages out about the importance of training, we can all do something practical to ensure that the risk to workers is minimised.”
Across Britain, more than 40,000 people have died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma since the late 1960s - and the numbers dying are increasing, according to the HSE/
Latest annual figures show that 2,249 people died from the disease in 2008, up over three per cent on the previous year.
Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum chair Tony Whitson said: “Each day we visit newly diagnosed mesothelioma sufferers who were never warned of the dangers of asbestos at work and who never knew how essential it was to avoid exposure to asbestos.
“As we confront the awful legacy from past exposure, the importance of asbestos awareness and training today cannot be exaggerated: it’s absolutely vital.”
Training providers looking to pledge hours are invited to visit the campaign website www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/training-pledge.htm and those wanting to sign up to free training can see what is being pledged in their area by following links on the site.