Asbestos exposure and making a successful claim for asbestos compensation
Earlier this year, a construction firm was fined after workers were exposed to asbestos during refurbishment works at a college. The construction firm was working alongside a specialist asbestos removal company but started work in an area of the college which had not yet been cleared of asbestos. Four employees were exposed to fibres and had to go through a specialist decontamination process. The company pleaded guilty to breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was fined £10,000 plus £3,064 costs.
A HSE spokesperson said, “This incident could have been avoided if an adequate risk assessment had been made before the work started and communicated clearly to the workforce.”
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 ban the importation, supply and use of asbestos in all its forms and also include a duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic buildings. The Regulations cover the requirement for anyone who may work with asbestos to be fully trained and for employers to prevent exposure to asbestos among workers. If exposure is necessary, it must be below the airborne exposure limit which is 0.1 fibres per cm3 for all types of asbestos.
Asbestos-related diseases are responsible for around 4,000 deaths every year. These diseases can include mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and pleural plaques. They are caused by fibres of asbestos entering the lungs. Asbestos fibres may result if asbestos is chipped, broken, drilled or allowed to deteriorate. Because of this, the people most likely to be exposed to asbestos are those who work in construction or in a trade where building materials are dismantled or destroyed.
Asbestos-related diseases can take 20-60 years to develop and therefore, experts estimate that the amount of asbestos-related disease is likely to increase in future years, despite the Control of Asbestos Regulations. This is because of the popularity of asbestos as a building material in the past and many people who were exposed to asbestos before the ban have not yet been diagnoses with asbestos-related diseases.
Christopher Morgan, a 58 year old pipe-fitter was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2008. He had been suffering from pain in his side and went to visit his GP, who sent him for further tests at the hospital. When he was diagnosed, he was not surprised. He had spent a lot of time during the course of his work breaking apart asbestos with a hammer and sweeping it up before cutting new asbestos to insulate boilers. This was before people were aware of the dangers of asbestos and so no protective equipment had been provided and he breathed in a lot of the deadly fibres. Today, this kind of work would not be allowed and anyone who would be at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres should be provided with protective equipment. Sadly, Christopher died in March 2010. He left a widow, three daughters and eight grandchildren.
Around 2,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. Most people who are diagnosed will die within 1-3 years of diagnosis. Often things move very quickly after diagnosis. For a family dealing with a devastating diagnosis, such as for mesothelioma, the practicalities of everyday life can be an added burden. There may be financial worries at this difficult time. A claim for compensation may be the last thing a family will think of but it could bring some financial security for the family of the person diagnosed and take away money worries so that the focus can be on the care of the ill person.
A compensation claim can also be made after the death of someone from mesothelioma. The compensation can ensure financial security for their family for a long time.
If you are thinking about making a claim for compensation, speak to a solicitor with specialist knowledge of asbestos compensation. They will be able to guide you through the claims process and gather the information needed to build a successful case. For a claim to be successful, you need to demonstrate that the mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos. This may be difficult to prove because of the distance between exposure and diagnosis but a case will be successful if it is considered that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ the mesothelioma was caused by the exposure. Even if a previous employer has gone out of business, it may still be possible to make a claim against their insurers. Claims must be made within three years of the first ‘date of knowledge.’ This does not mean from the time of exposure but from the time the asbestos-related illness is first discovered.
Make sure you choose a solicitor who will be able to build a solid case and ensure the best chance of success. Macks Solicitors have many years of experience in this area and our experts are available to talk to you, without obligation.