It has recently been reported by the Metropolitan Police in the National Press that up to 30,000 police officers might have come into contact with asbestos at training facilities and contact is being made with those who might have been affected.
A number of buildings used for firearms training between 1980 and 2007 are being examined. The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that they will undertake a thorough examination of all buildings where firearms training took place to establish whether asbestos was present.
Chief Superintendent Mike Gallagher said that enquiries had identified a possible issue at some buildings used historically and detailed investigations had been carried out to identify all those individuals potentially affected.
“Due to the time period in question and number of possible sites, we need to make contact with a large number of officers,”
“…this will include those who have left, retired, or transferred, so clearly this is a process which will take some time.”
As Asbestos Justice has reported on many occasions, asbestos was historically used widely in building construction. The use of white asbestos was not banned in the UK until the year 1999 and, therefore, any house or building built or refurbished before the year 2000 could contain asbestos, unless it has since been removed. Any exposure to asbestos poses a risk of serious respiratory or malignant conditions, including asbestosis, pleural thickening, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Asbestos Justice has dealt with a number of cases involving employees of the Police Authorities who have come into contact with asbestos and subsequently gone on to develop an asbestos related condition.
In one particular case, our client was exposed to asbestos whilst employed by the South Wales Constabulary during the 1980s and 1990s. Mr J was employed as a caretaker and worked in a number of police stations during his employment. He was responsible for the cleaning of the police stations and ensuring that the stations were in good working order. He attended to the small jobs in the police stations and the Building Department was called in for the larger and more specific jobs that needed doing.
Mr J recalled the boiler house in one of the police stations he worked at. There were no windows and no ventilation. There were two boilers and two water pipes which were lagged with asbestos. The ceiling tiles were also made of asbestos.
He told us that whenever he went down to the boiler room there was always an off-white dust on top of the boilers and pipework and covering the floor. Sometimes he had to go in there to brush and mop the boiler room. This would disturb the asbestos dust and our client inevitably breathed it in. The policemen used to leave their wet uniforms there to dry in the heat and hewould go and tidy the room up. He recalled the officers leaving their coats and other items of uniform on the floor.
Our client also wiped the pipes to clean them. The pipes were fixed to the walls approximately 7ft above head height and so when he wiped the dust from them the dust would be disturbed and fall from overhead, raining down onto him. The dust was so bad that he remembered using a hose to hose down the pipes with water, prior to brushing it up with a brush and pan, to try and stop it rising into the air.
Our client recalled being at the Police Station when a letter was sent out from Headquarters addressed to him asking if he was aware of asbestos being present in the Station. This was in approximately 1984 and was the first indication our client received that asbestos might have been a problem. He said that they were simply not provided with any information about the existence or the risk of asbestos.
He told us that a few days after that, heavy plastic sheeting was put up over the double doors into the boiler room. It was stapled into placeand they were told no one was to go in there. A couple of months later a specialist asbestos firm was brought in to remove the asbestos. One of the workers told our client that they were going to another South Wales police station after than to remove more asbestos. This was clearly not a one-off situation.
Our client came to us having been diagnosed with mesothelioma following a biopsy. He wanted advice on pursuing a mesothelioma claim for compensation. He had begun to suffer with breathlessness and developed a painful cough. Following a CT scan at his local hospital he had several litres of fluid removed from his chest and at this stage a diagnosis of mesothelioma was made. The mesothelioma diagnosis was later diagnosed by way of biopsy.
Prior to his mesothelioma diagnosis, our client had been in good health and was physically active. His diagnosis came as a real shock to him and he was concerned for his future.
The legal team at Asbestos Justice was able to successfully pursue a mesothelioma claim for him. We obtained engineering evidence which confirmed that our client would have been exposed to very small but nevertheless measurable quantities of asbestos dust whilst working in the boiler room in the police station. The engineer noted that our client’s exposure to asbestos post dated the date when there was knowledge that small quantities of asbestos exposure could cause mesothelioma.
In particular, he considered the guidance note EH10 which was published by the Health and Safety Executive in December 1976 which indicated that exposure to all forms of asbestos should be reduced to the minimum that was reasonably practicable. He did not feel that the Police Authority had done all it could to minimise our client’s exposure to the inhalation of asbestos dust.
Court proceedings were issued in the matter and South Wales Police initially denied liability on the basis that they did not believe that our client had been exposed to sufficient amounts of asbestos to pose a foreseeable risk. It was subsequently agreed, on the basis of witness evidence disclosed by us and the engineering evidence obtained, that judgement should be entered in our client’s favour. An immediate interim payment was made to him and the mesothelioma claim settled shortly after for the total sum of £90,000.