Workers urged to protect themselves from asbestos

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Workers urged to protect themselves from asbestos

7th October 2010

An industrial disease expert has urged building contractors to ensure they have been made fully aware if asbestos is known to be on the premises.

Karl Tonks, head of the Employers' Liability department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, spoke after a council admitted breaching asbestos regulations by sending an employee to a housing complex known to contain asbestos.

"Employers have a duty to take all necessary measures to educate and protect their staff from the dangers of asbestos," said Karl, a partner with the firm. "This case serves to highlight the importance of building contractors ensuring they are being adequately protected."

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough council was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,140 after pleading guilty to sending a plumber to fix a water leak in a housing complex without warning him asbestos was present. The faulty pipe responsible for the leak was found above a ceiling-board made from asbestos.

The plumber spent twenty minutes using a hand-saw to remove a section of board so he could access the pipes above. Unaware he was dealing with asbestos and consequently under-equipped with the requisite protective clothing, he was left completely covered in the resulting dust and debris.

Asbestos fibres are invisible to the naked eye. If inhaled, the tiny indestructible fibres lodge inside the body and can remain latent without symptoms for between 15-30 years before causing a number of lung-related cancers.

"Employers have a duty to enforce the law concerning asbestos," said Karl. "This includes the use of asbestos surveys before building work is sanctioned.

"It is vital that building contractors are at the very least made aware of the presence of asbestos to allow precautionary measures to be taken. They must be supplied with the necessary specialist clothing to protect them.

"The dangers of asbestos are well known within the building industry," said Karl. "The fact that a council sent an employee to a site known to contain asbestos without informing him of the fact, can only be seen as a failing."

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of industrial diseases including asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source - HSE