HSE to appeal ASA radio ad ruling

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to seek an independent review of adjudication by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after the watchdog banned a radio campaign warning of the dangers of asbestos for being misleading.

The HSE has expressed “deep disappointment” following the ASA’s ruling.

The radio campaign was part of a larger initiative under the banner “Asbestos: The Hidden Killer”. It was designed to increase awareness among tradesmen of the dangers of asbestos.

One of the five executions features the line: “Every year there are more people killed by asbestos than in road accidents, including joiners, electricians, plumbers, heating engineers and plasterers.” Other ads cite the numbers of tradesmen who die each week from asbestos exposure.

The ASA received one complaint from the Asbestos Watchdog, an independent service offering free advice about the material.

The body challenged the claim that “every year there are more people killed by asbestos than in road accidents” and the references to the exact number of tradesmen that would die, saying they were based on flawed calculations and exaggerated the dangers.

The ASA agreed that the ads were misleading as they presented definitive figures which were “in part” based on estimates.

The ASA did receive a complaint about a similar poster campaign but did not investigate because the objection was about the “general nature of the ad”.

HSE asbestos programme director Steve Coldrick says: “We are obviously very disappointed with the decision by the ASA to uphold this sole complaint… but we do consider it to be only on a technicality.”

He adds that the campaign was based on the same “robust statistical evidence and scientific understanding that underpins Government policy on asbestos”.

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