Asbestos: Retailers are urged to put customer’s safety first this Christmas

Asbestos: Retailer's urged to put shoppers' safety first

Today is Cyber Monday and the Christmas shopping period is now officially in full swing.

Shoppers are out in force, grabbing bargains in shopping centres and high streets across the UK, but the threat of asbestos is hanging over towns and cities across the UK.

As Christmas approaches, the team at Acorn Safety Services is warning retailers to put the safety of their staff and customers first by making sure they think carefully about the management of asbestos in their premises and their health and safety obligations.

Here, we explain why keeping up to date with health and safety has never been important to the nation’s wellbeing.

A timebomb that keeps on ticking

It may be more than 20 years since the use of asbestos was banned in new buildings in the UK, but this dangerous substance still exists all around us – in offices, factories, hospital, schools and on our high streets.

A report published by the Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association (ATaC) makes for grim reading.

Of more than 128,000 buildings surveyed between October 2021 and March 2022, a staggering 78% were found to contain asbestos. In total more than 700,000 individual items of asbestos were found and 71% of those were damaged, potentially posing a significant threat to health.

In places where it has been damaged, the microscopic fibres can be released into the air and, if inhaled, could go on to cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer which affects the lungs and the stomach.

Each year in the UK, 2,700 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma and 5,000 people die.

Rather than being a thing of the past, asbestos represents a significant threat to health right now.

It’s time to tackle the problem

As the busiest time of the year approaches for many retailers, Acorn Safety Services is urging retailers to protect the health and safety of those around them by checking for the presence of asbestos in any sites built before 2000.

In premises where it has been found, surveys should be carried out regularly to ensure it has not been damaged or fractured.

Director of Acorn Safety Services, Neil Munro said: “The UK is in the middle of an asbestos epidemic and the statistics released by ATaC are frightening.

“It’s all around us – in our offices, factories, hospitals, schools and our high streets – and a number of retailers have received hefty fines recently for not managing their duty of care around asbestos management.

“Many of our towns and cities are dominated by units which were built well before the ban was introduced in 1999 and it is essential that retailers and landlords check for the presence of asbestos if they are not sure.

“Failure to do so could be deadly, putting staff or customers at risk of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres, as well as costly fines.

“We’ve already seen an increase in the number of big businesses getting in touch with us to discuss the need for asbestos surveys and anticipate that number will increase throughout 2023.”

He also warned retailers not to put off arranging asbestos surveys because of the additional cost.

He said: “Where asbestos exists, it is a legal requirement for it to be managed safely and within the latest regulations. Not doing so could lead to significant fines which could cause even more harm to your business and its reputation.”

For more information about Acorn Safety Services and the services they offer please get in touch with the team using the contact details below.

For all your health and safety needs visit today or contact us at or on 01604 930380.

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