Asbestos has been known as a dangerous material for many decades. In the UK, it was banned over the course of 25 years or more, with the full ban coming into place in 1999 that meant it was no longer used in any form of construction. What that means is that for the past 20 years any new build developments have used anything other than asbestos within its materials, but there are a large number of properties where asbestos materials are still present. Asbestos removal companies are licensed to securely survey, test and remove asbestos for the safety of others. As a result, these companies understand personal protective equipment, having the correct protective clothing at all times to ensure that individuals do not breathe in asbestos fibres that could cause long-term health complications.

The idea has come about after The West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group called on asbestos removal companies and car repair shops to donate protective equipment and clothing for the use of NHS staff. With demand outstripping supply for frontline workers battling the coronavirus, time is of the essence to find new clothing and equipment to allow staff to safely treat patients without fear of becoming ill.

The Group is in charge of running 32 GP practices in Epping Forest, Uttlesford and Harlow, but it is thought that similar calls will be made nationwide to those sectors where there is experience of wearing protective clothing and using protective equipment on a daily basis.

WHO (The World Health Organisation) has already identified that there is an insufficient number of PPE stockpiled worldwide for a pandemic of this nature. This can be seen most acutely in the need for respirators and medical masks, gowns, goggles and gloves. The sooner that other sources can be found and confirmed, the better we will all be for the NHS frontline staff to have access.

For asbestos removal companies specifically, there has been a need for personal protective equipment over the decades to protect licensed asbestos survey contractors from breathing in potentially fatal asbestos fibres. As asbestos was used in construction for many decades before the 1999 ban, it is important to survey and remove any asbestos containing materials delicately and to protect anyone in the vicinity utilising the latest PPE.

In these times of unprecedented crisis, it is important to look at the silver linings. There are clearly failings in how the NHS have been provided for in terms of front-line staff having access to the correct type of personal protective equipment and clothing that would mean they can treat patients in the correct manner. When it is more important than ever before to have a fully functioning NHS frontline staff, the approach should be to provide them with as much assistance as possible. We’ve seen certain sectors look to help with the production of ventilators, including Formula 1 teams for example. If a sector with experience of PPE, such as the asbestos removal industry, it seems only natural that this experience and know-how could be used to help the NHS become better prepared to help those patients suffering with Covid-19.

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