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Is asbestos still a threat?

View profile for Catriona Ralls
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Recently, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published figures showing that deaths caused by mesothelioma reached 2,523 in 2017, with the majority of cases stemming from contact with asbestos in the workplace. This shows that, despite the use of asbestos in the UK being banned completely since 1999, the after effects are still being felt. Here, Catriona Ralls, mesothelioma specialist within our Personal Injury team, details why we need to still take precautions when dealing with asbestos.

Why do I still need to take precautions?

While the health risks of working with asbestos are well known and documented, there are still many places that the material can be found. The HSE reported that as many as 700 schools across the UK were referred to them from the Department of Education due to concerns that they were not correctly or safely managing asbestos in their buildings. Estimates suggest that 90% of school buildings in the UK still contain asbestos in ceiling panels, walls and around pipework and boilers. Similarly, many NHS hospital buildings also still contain large amounts of asbestos.

A survey conducted by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) revealed that a quarter of tradespeople have been exposed to asbestos, and a further third do not check the asbestos register before working on a site.

What do the figures say?

The statistics for mesothelioma related deaths, which were released by the HSE alongside its annual workplace fatality figures, show that the number of lives lost is largely similar to the previous five years. While it is good to see there is no significant rise in numbers, it shows that the effects of asbestos are still prevalent and impacting people’s lives. The report suggests that the numbers are largely due to exposure to “brown” and “blue” asbestos that came prior to the 1980s. The HSE expects the numbers of deaths due to mesothelioma to continue at this level until the end of the decade, when they should then start to decline.

How can I protect myself from asbestos?

The IOSH produced a pocket book last year, detailing how you can protect yourself from asbestos dust if you detect it while working, namely:

  • Stop work immediately
  • Move everyone away and ensure no one enters the area
  • Do not remove any equipment or materials
  • Close, seal or lock off the area
  • Put up warning signs
  • Report it to your employer

“While it is hoped that the number of mesothelioma related deaths will soon start to decline, it will very much depend on how asbestos exposure risks are managed,” summarises Catriona. “It is still prevalent in a lot of our hospitals and schools, and so we must always be careful. We see on a regular basis the consequences of being exposed to asbestos, and can not only assist those who are diagnosed, and their loved ones, by claiming financial compensation, but also by connecting them with the appropriate medical professionals.”

 If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, or you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact Catriona or a member of the team on 0800 91 92 30 or email catrionaralls@warnergoodman.co.uk.  You can also find out information about secondary exposure to asbestos here, as well as information on the symptoms and making a claim here.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.