Exposure to Asbestos is the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, claiming more than 50,000 victims in the last 30 years.
The effects can take many years to develop but Asbestos-related illnesses can include conditions as deadly as lung cancer, asbestosis and Mesothelioma.
The diseases can extend far beyond the people working with Asbestos and often affect their families who may have come into contact with their contaminated work clothes or overalls.
A new legal ruling has just made it easier for victims to get compensation, although there are strict time limits to make a claim.
Despite being banned for several years you could still come into contact with asbestos because it was used in construction for many years and can still be found in some buildings.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in a range of industries during the 1960s and ’70s and was considered a versatile material ideal for building until the dangers were identified.
There are three main varieties of asbestos all of which were used by companies for all sorts of different purposes, from construction to insulation to fireproofing.
Unfortunately the mineral was used in everything from shipbuilding to textiles so thousands of workers were exposed to its potentially lethal effects.
Asbestos is made of millions of tiny fibres which, if inhaled into the lungs can prove deadly. The use of Blue and Brown asbestos was banned in 1985, while White asbestos was outlawed in 1999.
Why is it Dangerous?
Exposure to asbestos can cause a range of very serious illnesses, but because of the nature of the diseases it causes, it can take as long as 30 years to develop symptoms.
There are many types of asbestos-related diseases but they mostly involve damage to the lungs, with some of the most serious including:
- Lung cancer.
- Pleural Plaques.
Most of these illnesses are caused by working with Asbestos and inhaling the dust or sharp fibres which lodge inside the lungs. Although it has been banned for some years, the mineral still accounts for around 3,500 deaths every year. Unfortunately, the most serious diseases caused by asbestos are usually fatal.
What are the Risks of Being Exposed Today?
Although asbestos has been for several years there is still a very real risk of asbestos exposure at work. The mineral was widely used in construction so many buildings still contain some asbestos and although it is usually safe if left untouched, it can still cause disease if it is disturbed.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) believes that many workers in the building trade are still at risk of exposure. It particularly highlights the following jobs:
- Heating and ventilating engineers.
- Roofing contractors.
- Fire and burglar alarm installers.
- General maintenance workers.
- Painters and decorators.
- Gas fitters.
- Demolition workers.
- Telephone engineers.
- Computer installation engineers.
- Site managers.
How Are Workers Protected From Asbestos?
New laws and regulations have introduced a duty for building controllers to manage asbestos exposure across all non-domestic premises.
The legal duty is usually placed on the people responsible for the maintenance and repair of the building but this can depend on the tenancy agreement.
Under the duty the regulations state that the building controller must:
- Find any materials likely to contain asbestos and keep up-to-date records.
- Assess the Risk of exposure.
- Prepare a plan on how the risks will be managed.
- Give information to anyone likely to work on the premises or disturb asbestos.
The HSE also operates an Asbestos Licensing Unit which regulates all companies working with Asbestos and grants permission to carry out work.
Who Can Make a Claim For Compensation?
The situation has recently been clouded by a series of legal rulings on who is responsible for providing compensation to workers. However, the new Compensation Act 2006 has clarified things and workers can now claim from one employer, even if they were exposed to risks in several different jobs.
If you have contracted an asbestos-related disease because of exposure at work you should contact a personal injury lawyer who can offer advice and guidance on the compensation and claim process.