Think your workplace is safe from asbestos and you’re not at risk? You may have to think again.
By Carl Waring
September 1st was National Asbestos Awareness Day in the UK — an event designed to highlight the ongoing risks to workers from this incredibly hazardous material and what workplaces can do to minimise the risk of exposure.
For decades, asbestos was widely used in the construction industry as an insulator and fire retardant, but its use has since been banned by the government. That has lead to a raft of personal injury claims, many using No Win No Fee personal injury solicitors. That’s because it can cause a range of serious illnesses and, in some cases, fatal conditions.
Unless you see tufts of the stuff sticking out of the ceiling at your place of work, you probably think there’s no problem. There may be no sign of potentially dangerous asbestos fibres you can inhale that might severely damage your health. Unfortunately, though, it isn’t that simple, and you could be very wrong.
Real asbestos risks and personal injury claims
Even though asbestos for use in the construction industry is no longer permitted, that doesn’t mean it’s not still in buildings. In fact, many old buildings may still contain large amounts of asbestos — those that were constructed or refurbished before 2000 — and that’s one of the primary reasons for the ongoing high level of personal injury claims.
So it’s safe to say that the vast majority of offices and other types of commercial buildings remain real asbestos risks for the people working in them. People who have been exposed and are suffering from a related condition or illness may be able to make personal injury claims, and hopefully it will never happen to you. Here are some steps you can take to avoid coming into contact with asbestos in your workplace.
Reducing the toxic risk
Clearly, to avoid carcinogenic asbestos in your building, you need to know where in the building it is. To find out, you’ll need to ask your management if they know, and this will depend on whether your company owns your building or rents/leases all or part of it. If the latter is the case, your management will have to make enquiries of the landlord.
It may be the case that your building contains asbestos in many areas, and it will need to be monitored to continually assess what condition it’s in. Asbestos that’s in good condition is best not disturbed and left as it is, but asbestos that is now in poor condition must be removed. This is also the case if the asbestos might be disturbed during normal work activities, causing its fibres to become lose and potentially be inhaled by employees. If it’s deemed too dangerous by a specialist asbestos contractor to remove the material, it should be enclosed or sealed in the space it’s in. Otherwise, there’s a change of harm occurring, and people making No Win No Fee personal injury claims.
It’s not just you who may be at risk of asbestos exposure in your workplace, but all of your colleagues. Are they aware of the potential dangers, and do they care? Once you have your facts — like where the asbestos in your building is and what condition it’s in — discuss the establishment of an asbestos awareness programme for employees, so that everyone is fully clued-up. Employers are legally required to provide such information and training programmes.
It’s vital that proper control measures are introduced to offices and buildings to offset any inherent asbestos risks. That means various work practices should be introduced so that asbestos is not disturbed or brought into contact with people. This could mean, for example, limiting activities or heavy foot traffic in parts of the affected building, or avoiding them entirely.
If someone has come in contact with asbestos at work, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will go on to develop a related condition or illness. For those that do, it can take years for the symptoms to develop. So it’s important that the health of those who are exposed is continually monitored, so that immediate medical steps can be taken if a condition or illness does develop.
Asbestos exposure is no joke. Thousands of people die from it each year, and it’s estimated that prior to 2005, at least 125 million people around the world were exposed to the material. Along with getting better, the best thing you can do if you’re affected by an asbestos-related condition or illness is to make a No Win No Fee personal injury claim for compensation.