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More protection from fatal asbestos fibre needed in UK

The UK is failing to comply with asbestos laws designed to protect workers

Photo of asbestos removal: istock

7 September 2011

In February 2011, the European Commission (EC) found that the UK is failing to fully comply with European Law designed to protect workers exposed to asbestos.  The EC asked the UK to completely comply with the ‘Asbestos Directive’ within two months.

The UK and asbestos

Employers are currently exempted by the ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006’ (CAR) from applying the Asbestos Directive for activities that involve “sporadic and low intensity exposure”. Under the CAR 2006 there is currently no requirement to:
  • Notify all asbestos works to the responsible national authority;
  • Ensure a health assessment is made of new workers exposed to asbestos and make a renewed assessment every three years; and
  • Keep a register of the workers who are, or may be, exposed to asbestos at work.

The UK’s failure to fully implement the requirements of the Directive leave UK workers vulnerable to unmonitored exposure to asbestos. We have successfully represented many people who have been exposed to asbestos when they worked as boiler fitters, plumbers, heat insulaters, ship workers, school caretakers, and teachers.  We have also represented the partners of such workers who have contracted asbestos related diseases after washing work clothes. Failure to adhere to health and safety regulations   by the employers of our clients have meant that our clients have been exposed to potentially fatal hazards in the workplace.

The Government has accepted that the omissions to adhere with the European Directive must be rectified and the Health and Safety Executive launched a consultation on 5 September 2011 entitled ‘Proposals on revised Control of Asbestos Regulations’.

Currently there are two categories of work with asbestos, under the CAR 2006:

1.    Licensed

To which all mandatory safety requirements apply (e.g. a need for a licence, have arrangements to deal with accidents, regular medical examinations, have designated asbestos areas)

2.    Non-Licensed
To which no mandatory safety requirements apply.

The new regulations would aim to have a third category of:

3.    Notifiable Non Licensed Worked
which would require employers to notify enforcing authorities of asbestos work being carried out, undertake medical examinations and maintain a register of work (within health records). 

The Consultation closes on 4 November 2011.

Asbestos fibre

Asbestos is a very dangerous material and was used extensively in buildings in the 1960 and 1970’s including offices, schools and some houses. Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause serious, often fatal diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. 

Even low intensity and infrequent exposure to asbestos can have a devastating effect on an individual’s health.  There is no safe level to asbestos exposure. It is imperative that there are tight measures in place to control and record all exposure to asbestos and therefore any exemption from notification of work with asbestos should strongly be resisted.

Leigh Day: asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers

Leigh Day has a team of specialist mesothelioma claims lawyers who have successfully obtained millions of pounds in compensation for people who have contracted mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the workplace.  We only represent claimants and do not act for insurance companies.  Daniel Easton, partner and head of the industrial diseases team, has been recognised as a leader in the areas of asbestos compensation claims by both major legal directories.  Chambers guide to the legal profession recently described him as being considered ‘outstandingly knowledgeable’ by the Bar, and ‘compassionate’ and ‘responsive’ by clients.

If you would like to speak to a lawyer about a possible claim for compensation please contact Daniel Easton, Vijay Ganapathy or Zahra Nanji on 020 7650 1200 for a free initial consultation.

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