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  • Writer's picturePaul Beaumont

Asbestos, the Red X

For many decades now, asbestos has been recognised as a potentially lethal material. Exposure to asbestos, or more factually, the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibres can kill. It is estimated that over 5000 people die each year due to past exposure to asbestos in the UK, and some 200,000+ globally.

To see the end to these deaths and remove people’s exposure, one of the weapons in the arsenal is raising awareness of the dangers of exposure, indeed, there is a set of regulations that require it, but just how easy is it to raise awareness of something so dangerous?

Personally, I have been providing asbestos awareness since the beginning of the millennium, some 20 years or more. I’ve carried out thousands of formal training courses, been invited to speak publicly and even been asked by the HSE to help create a video for the YouTube channel, “On the Tools” all in the name of raising this vital awareness.

Even with all of this effort, not just from me, but hundreds of training providers, speakers, and even actual asbestos victims, the question has to be asked, are we getting the message across?

There is doubt.

Yesterday I had a realisation, a bit of an “oh my god moment” while travelling on a smart motorway, this came about due to a big red X!

Bear with me, you’ll see where I’m going with this, and it’s not on a closed carriageway!

I’m sure, I would hope, that if you drive in the UK you will know of and may have even travelled on a ‘Smart Motorway’ or two. These are basically motorways that use the former hard should as a “running” or “live lane” at times of heavy traffic, but there’s a problem, and is a very bad one. Unfortunately, and very sadly, people have lost their lives due to this system. So, what has been done to eradicate these easily preventable losses?

National Highway started a campaign to inform, educate and raise awareness of the “Red X” and what it means. For those who don’t know, and I really hope you do, this is a symbol that is displayed above the lane or on an illuminated board above the motorway to inform and show that the identified lane MUST NOT be used. Surly, a big red X would get the message across, surely anyone, everyone would understand, it’s red, that being the colour that signifies danger, it’s an X and a big one at that, the letter that implies danger, what more could be done, some even say, “DO NOT USE LANE” but the message is getting lost somewhere.

NOTE: I did want to put a picture of a poison bottle showing the triple Xs, however when searching the interweb for “XXX”, you wouldn’t want to see the images that come up!

Back to the blog, how about spending millions on highly visible billboards, posters, TV and radio adverts, surely this will reach the masses… also no, again, as mentioned, only yesterday, I was on the motorway, where the red X was being displayed, what I saw was not just one solitary vehicle, but a stream, a convoy of vehicles continued to use the lane. What must we do to educate people? How can people not know, is it ignorance, lack of information, or do they just not care, just how loud must we shout to raise awareness of something that has an immediate risk of death, not just to them, but others, just what needs to be done to SAVE THEIR LIVES! Well, with the smart motorway, the government have now pulled the plug on any more being built, even the ones ready to go have been cancelled, not just because of cost, but for public safety.

This brings me to where in going. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, something that’s known to kill people was banned in the UK in 1999. The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987, yes, 1987, say what is needed and says it quite clearly,

“Every employer shall ensure that adequate information, instruction, and training is given to his [their] employees—

(a)who are or are liable to be exposed to asbestos so that they are aware of the risks from asbestos and the precautions which should be observed…”

is this message not getting through, is it too complicated, too hard to understand? Even though this requirement came about in 1987, it’s still a requirement today.

Just a Postscript to that, this requirement also applies to the self-employed too!

Maybe, like the Red X campaign, just maybe, we’ll get through to some, hopefully, we’ll get the message to many, but only time will tell. Unfortunately, the campaign to raise awareness of asbestos doesn’t have the privilege to just stop what’s killing us, it’s out there, in buildings, and, to quote the HSE campaign from 2008, asbestos, it's the “Hidden Killer”.

I for one will continue putting up the Red X to asbestos, I’ll talk about this until my last breath, and I really don’t care where, be it an empty cellar or a crowded stadium or here on the web, if it helps raise awareness of asbestos, you will hear my voice and that of many others across the UK, if not the world.

“Asbestos- Be Aware, Take care”

1-11 Compliance Group Ltd offers a suite of approved online, eLearning training at a low cost. We also offer high-quality, informative face-2-face training across the UK and beyond. Paul Beaumont, the MD of 1-11 and CEO of the IATP offers his time to attend public meetings, seminars, and groups to help raise awareness of asbestos.

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