Are Companies Taking the UK’s Asbestos Laws Seriously?

 Jun 5, 2014

Asbestos was completely banned by the UK government in 1999, yet the potentially life-threatening substance is still causing huge problems some 15 years later.

Laws to restrict its use were first introduced in the 1980s, with the importing and use of blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos being prohibited in 1985, however, Britain was much slower to sanction a blanket ban than other countries around the world. Legislation has been updated since 1999, with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 being the most notable reform to date. The law was again tweaked in 2012 in order to bring the UK in line with an EU Directive.

Of course, many buildings erected during the 20th century still contain asbestos, and there are clear rules in place to ensure it is handled safely. In many cases, licensed professionals need to be called in to remove it. Although the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidelines for businesses to follow, there have been countless examples of companies failing to abide by the nation's asbestos laws.

Just by browsing through the HSE's press release section, we can clearly see that a large number of firms are being prosecuted for breaching asbestos regulations. One recent example involved Battersea-based building company Redwood Contractors, which was fined £10,000 during a hearing at Reading Magistrates' Court. It emerged that the business did not highlight the known presence of asbestos insulating board at a Berkshire warehouse, putting workers in danger of exposure.

HSE inspector Karen Morris confirmed that an asbestos survey had been carried out, but the findings were not communicated to workers - something that she believes is a common problem in the construction industry. Just a few weeks before this hearing, Bristol-based property developer Da Vinci Developments was fined £9,800 for exposing employees to asbestos while working on a Marks and Spencer shop. On this occasion, workers had been breaking up asbestos insulation board as they attempted to demolish walls and ceilings. A statutory survey had not been carried out beforehand.

With so many organisations flouting Britain's asbestos laws, is it inevitable that more compensation claims will be made in the future?

Asbestos causes a multitude of debilitating diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, non-malignant pleural disease and asbestosis, and these can take effect up to 40 or 50 years after somebody has been exposed to the deadly fibres. There has been a sharp upturn in the number of cases being brought forward in the last few years, as people are increasingly aware of their right to make a claim.

According to the HSE, an average of four plumbers, six electricians and eight joiners die from diseases caused by asbestos exposure every single week in the UK. The regulator also warned that the families of construction staff who have been working with asbestos can be affected too, as the dust and fibres are transported in their loved one's clothes.

Insurers can be reluctant to pay compensation to people who have contracted one of these devastating diseases, which is why more claimants are turning to solicitors for help. At Carrs Solicitors, we specialise in work-related injury and occupational illness cases, including those involving diseases that can be traced back to asbestos exposure.

Do you think you are eligible to make a claim? Please get in touch for some free advice.

At Carrs Solicitors, you will always have a senior solicitor who will personally handle every aspect of your personal injury claim and who will always be available to answer your questions. We are ready to listen and to offer free impartial advice in strict confidence.

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