Asbestos concerns for workers on London Underground


According to a London Underground worker, asbestos fibre is "all over the place" on the tube network, with particular problems at the eastern end of the Central line.

Alan Jenkins, who works on signalling and is also active with the RMT union, said that asbestos is rife on the entire London Underground system, running east along the tunnel walls from Mile End station.

Asbestos is rife on the London Tube Network

"They have painted it with encapsulating paint," said Mr Jenkins. "The concern we have got is that paint could easily chip off and expose the asbestos."

Mr Jenkins added that since London Underground would not remove the asbestos due to costs and time, the union was looking to introduce safety measures.

"[These] have been partially successful. But then there are still whole departments working down there without adequate procedures to deal with it," he said, adding that he believes Transport for London (TfL) is "reluctant" to deal with the asbestos problem because it would cause disruption.

"It is more important to get the work done than it is to get it done in a manner that is safe for the workforce and the public," he said.

Inhaling asbestos fibres can cause grave respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma, a cancer which attacks the lining of the lungs. The construction industry used asbestos extensively for insulation purposes until its use was legally curtailed in the 1980s and 1990s.

Another tube worker said that although he worries about exposure to asbestos on London Underground, it is part of working in an ageing infrastructure. He added that he was taking "asbestos training".

In a statement, TfL said passengers and staff "are not at risk from exposure to asbestos fibres when travelling on the Underground", adding that the company had established "robust" controls in accordance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

"Teams know in advance if there is asbestos-containing material in their location before they start work," said a spokesman. "There are strict training requirements before staff go on site and strict procedures for making sure that workers are protected."

TfL says it has taken "every opportunity" to remove asbestos from the London Underground system. Staff also have to undergo health and safety training procedures relating to asbestos in the workplace.

The spokesman added: "If staff are required to work in areas where there are asbestos-containing materials, specific control measures are put in place to prevent uncontrolled disturbance and to protect workers from the hazards associated with asbestos at this location."

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