The effects of asbestos exposure can be devastating. Mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos has no known cure but treatment, when possible, aims to improve quality of life.
Asbestos conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural thickening all have a latency period. This means that there is a time period of between 10 and 50 years from exposure to asbestos to the development of an asbestos related condition. Due to this latency period, it is thought that the occurrence of asbestos related conditions has not yet peaked, with experts predicting this will occur around 2016.
As the use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, many people believe that asbestos is no longer an issue. However, as asbestos was widely used in buildings before 2000, any property built before this time could contain asbestos. It is for this reason that companies and individuals who might come across asbestos need to be aware of the dangers.
Unfortunately, it seems not everyone takes the risk of asbestos as seriously as they should. Every month we hear that the HSE have investigated incidences of asbestos exposure and have taken various firms and bodies to court to be held to account for exposing people to harmful amounts of asbestos.
Recently, a construction management company was fined following serious failings on a site in London.
Cowen Builders Limited exposed three workers to disturbed asbestos over the course of several days whilst work was carried out. It was not only the building company that was found to be at fault. Prior to the building work starting, they contracted Paragon Management UK Limited to carry out a survey. The survey identified asbestos being present; however, Paragon did not provide the builders with the survey before they started the work. The builders carried on with the work without the necessary precautions for asbestos being put into place.
Paragon Management UK Limited pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs. The company was also ordered to pay the three exposed workers compensation.
A director of Cowen Building Limited also pleaded guilty to offences under Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs.
It is not just companies who are taken to court by the Health and Safety Executive. Earlier this year Karl Locher pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was employed to work at a domestic property, installing a new heating system. The old pipework, which was no longer needed, was lagged with asbestos. Despite this, Mr Locher used an electric saw to remove the pipes and then moved them through the house, leaving them on the customer’s drive.
It was found that Mr Locher had not received any asbestos awareness training. Had he had undergone suitable training, Mr Locher would have been able to identify the asbestos lagging and taken the necessary precautions.
Not only did Mr Locher unknowingly put himself at danger, exposing himself to potentially deadly asbestos, the owners of the property were also put at risk.
These cases highlight the need for continual asbestos education to prevent further people being exposed to asbestos. They also show that although the number of asbestos related conditions is expected to peak next year, the legacy of asbestos will sadly continue for many years to come.
If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos claim please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.