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Silicosis in the UK

While health and safety protection in Britain has improved which in turn has reduced the number of people developing silicosis, statistics from Health & Safety Executive (HSE) show that workers are continuing to be affected by the disease.  

The HSE statistics for the UK in 2017 identified between 10 and 20 annual deaths from silicosis over the last 10 years with 11 deaths in 2015. 16 estimated new cases of silicosis were identified by specialist chest doctors in 2016. Silica-related lung cancer is also a recognised industrial disease. Research from Imperial College London suggests that around 900 cases of lung cancer each year in Britain can be attributed to past exposure to silica dust in the workplace. The HSE estimate the number of lung cancer deaths attributable to exposure to silica dust to be around 800 per annum.

While these figures may appear to be low, the HSE believe they are substantially underestimated when taking into account other diseases resulting from exposure to silica dust together with information regarding the likely extent of past exposure in Britain. 

Is silicosis on the rise?

An emerging area of concern is the proliferation of hydraulic fracturing also known as ‘fracking’ which is used in the oil and gas industry. The process is designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock and silica sand is used as a prop to hold open cracks created by hydraulic pressure. 

Fracking is now widely used in parts of America. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) noted the rise in fracking operations and field studies have indicated considerable exposure to silica dust through such operations in the US.  

With the UK Government encouraging fracking to determine the impact it could have on future energy security, jobs and bills, it is thought that fracking operations in the US may well be replicated in the UK as the fracking industry develops

If you would like to talk to one of our specialist industrial lawyers about a possible claim for silicosis compensation, please phone us on 020 7650 1200 or complete our enquiry form for a free initial consultation. There are time limits for bringing claims for personal injury such as silicosis cases and is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

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