We speak to clients every day about potential asbestos disease claims. We often hear them say, “I was exposed to asbestos at work, but they didn’t know it was dangerous then did they?”  In the past many workers did not know that asbestos was dangerous but, sadly, many companies were well aware.

So, how much did companies actually know?

Sadly, a lot of employers either:

  • Were aware that asbestos was dangerous and exposed people anyway
  • Should have known that asbestos was dangerous

This is why people are able to claim compensation. A legal claim can only be successful if it is proven that a person was negligently/wrongly exposed to asbestos.

In deciding whether we will be able to prove that, we have to consider what the law was at the time you were exposed to asbestos, and what the knowledge of the company that exposed you was or should have been.

How has the law around asbestos developed?

Below is a history of how asbestos law has developed:

1898 – 1912:

Asbestos dust and its injurious effects were discussed in the HM Chief Inspector of Factories’ Annual Reports.


Dr. E. R. A. Merewether, HM Medical Inspector of Factories and C. W. Price, HM Engineering Inspector of Factories prepared a paper called “Report on Effects of Asbestos Dust on the Lungs and Dust Suppression in the Asbestos Industry.” The report was submitted to the Home Secretary in March 1930. It highlighted the risk of a person developing fibrosis after being exposed to asbestos dust.


Asbestos Industry Regulations came into effect under the Factory and Workshop Act 1901. The regulations applied to certain processes involving asbestos which were being carried out in factories and workshops.


The Asbestos Industry (Asbestosis) Scheme contained compensation provision for either disablement or death caused by either asbestosis or asbestosis accompanied by tuberculosis. The Scheme applied to workers employed in specified processes.


“A Memorandum on Asbestosis” was published by Dr. Mereweather. This paper discussed the link between the concentration of asbestos dust and asbestos disease.


The Factories Act 1937 came into force on 1st July 1938. This contained specific sections relating to asbestos dust.


In his Annual Report, the Chief Inspector of Factories said that one of the greatest problems facing industry was dust. He considered both silicosis and asbestosis.


The 1943 Annual Report of the HM Chief Inspector of Factories contained an analysis of fatal asbestosis cases.


The Building (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations 1948 were made under the Factories Act 1937. Regulation 82 required that, “Where in connection with any grinding, cleaning, spraying or manipulation of any material, there is given off any dust or fume of such a character and to such extent as to be likely to be injurious to the health of persons employed all reasonably practicable measures shall be taken either by securing adequate ventilation or by the provision and use of suitable respirators or otherwise to prevent inhalation of such dust or fume.”


In his Annual Report the HM Chief Inspector of Factories reiterated that the Asbestos Regulations which had been in force since 1931 needed to be adhered to. He also stated that it was necessary to keep a close eye on new asbestos users.


The National Trade Press Ltd published the “Factory Health Safety and Welfare Encyclopedia.” This provided guidance in relation to many health and safety issues which faced employers. It emphasised the importance of safety, health and welfare in industry. Specific advice was included in relation to asbestosis and the provision of breathing apparatus.


Richard Doll published a paper called “Mortality from Lung Cancer in Asbestos Workers” in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine. It reported that that there had been 61 cases of lung cancer recorded in people with asbestosis.


The HM Chief Inspector of Factories’ annual report on industrial health included a ‘special chapter’ on occupational cancer. This chapter discussed the link between asbestosis and lung cancer.


The Ministry of Labour published the guidance booklet “Toxic Substances in Factory Atmospheres.” The guidance booklet warned of the dangers of inhaling dust and referenced the Factories Act 1937. Furthermore, the booklet discussed how to prevent exposure and the importance of using protective equipment.

In the same year, an article was published in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine by Wagner et al. This article discussed the link between the occurrence of mesothelioma and exposure to crocidolite asbestos.


Newhouse and Thompson published an article in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine called “Mesothelioma of Pleura and Peritoneum Following Exposure to Asbestos in the London Area.” The article stated, “There seems little doubt that the risk of mesothelioma may arise from both occupational and domestic exposure to asbestos. Wagner and others (1960) described patients with no exposure other than living as a child in the vicinity of asbestos mines”.

In the same year, the HM Chief Inspectors of Industrial Health published its Annual Report which referenced asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma.

In addition, the Sunday Times published an article by Dr. Alfred Byrne, their medical correspondent, reporting on the Newhouse and Thompson report under the headline, “Scientists track down a killer dust disease.”  This article discussed mesothelioma and its link with asbestos in workers and also domestic exposure, citing the example of wives washing their husband’s overalls.


The Ministry of Labour published an article “Dust and Fumes in Factory Atmospheres.” It noted that it was a requirement of Section 63(1) of the Factories Act 1961 that occupiers of factories should take all practicable measures to protect employees from the inhalation of dust or fume.


The British Occupational Hygiene Society published “Hygiene standards for chrysotile asbestos dust.”  This work formed the basis of the first UK derived occupational hygiene standard for chrysotile as referred to in Technical Data Note 13 (published in 1970) and the 1976 edition of HSE Guidance Note EH10. It commented, “As long as there is any airborne chrysotile dust in the work environment there may be some small risk to health”.


In May 1970 the Asbestos Regulations 1969 revoked the Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931. These new regulations applied to every factory process involving asbestos or any article composed wholly or partly of asbestos.

In the same year, the Technical Data Note 13 was issued by the HM Factory Inspectorate. This dictated that low levels of asbestos exposure put workers at risk.


In 1974 the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act was introduced and included provisions for dealing with asbestos.


EH10 replaced TDN 13 and stated that exposure to all forms of asbestos dust should be reduced to the minimum that is reasonably practicable.


A new Guidance Note EH10 underlined the control limits for asbestos


Asbestos Prohibitions Regulations introduced a ban on Crocidolite (blue asbestos) and Amosite (brown asbestos)


The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987 were issued and included action levels for asbestos.


Asbestos Prohibitions Regulations were amended to include a ban on Chrysotile (white asbestos).


The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 were introduced. Regulation 4 required businesses to identify and manage asbestos in their properties.


The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006 amalgamated all previous asbestos regulations.


The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012 updated previous asbestos regulations to take into account the European Commission’s view that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to asbestos.

This list is not an exhaustive list but gives a summary of the main dates.

As can be seen, there has been significant reporting and legislation dealing with asbestos and its dangers to health. These dates provide the basis for asbestos disease claims associated with exposure to asbestos spanning back decades and assists specialist asbestos disease solicitors like ourselves in proving blame in asbestos disease claims.

How can we help?

If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos compensation claim for mesothelioma or other asbestos disease then 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.

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