This summer, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released its annual figures for work-related fatal injuries for 2017/18, including the number of people known to have died from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, in 2016.
The HSE reports that mesothelioma, contracted through past exposure to asbestos and one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, killed 2,595 people in Great Britain in 2016. This is a slight increase on the previous year when mesothelioma accounted for 2,542 deaths.
It’s a harsh reality that annual deaths in Britain have increased steeply over the last 50 years. As the HSE outlines, this is a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.
The long-term increase in mesothelioma deaths has occurred mainly among those aged 75 and above. In 2016, of the fatalities, 398 were women and 2,197 were men – a ratio that is broadly similar to previous years.
According to the latest projections, it is estimated there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before the annual numbers begin to decline.
SWASAG chairman Steve Jones said:
“These latest figures demonstrate the deadly legacy of asbestos and the devastating impact it has on families across the country.
“Many, many people have been exposed to asbestos in their place of work over the years and it’s appalling that many past employers were aware of its dangers but did nothing to adequately protect workers from being exposed to asbestos dust and fibres.”