Asbestos in the workplace

Asbestos was used extensively in many industries and this has lead to a legacy of asbestos related disease cases.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that exists naturally in a fibrous form and is resistant to heat, water, chemicals and electricity.

It was used virtually everywhere in UK during the 20th century and was incorporated into thousands of construction, commercial and household products.

As well as existing in fireproof coatings, concrete, cement, bricks, pipes, gaskets, insulation, drywall, flooring, roofing, paints and sealants asbestos can also be found in electrical appliances, plastics, rubber, mattresses, flowerpots, lawn furniture and even hats and gloves.

After decades of research asbestos was found to cause cancer and other acute diseases with those who worked in blue-collar industries such as construction and manufacturing being most at risk of asbestos exposure.

Today, asbestos exposure is the No 1 cause of work related deaths in the world and recent figures released by the Health & Safety Executive in October 2018 reveal asbestos related deaths continue to rise in the UK and there over 5,000 asbestos related deaths per year.

Sadly, asbestos is still a deadly forced despite being banned in the UK and can still be found in buildings built or refurbished prior to 2000.

It therefore vital that everyone remains vigilant and aware of their working environment as there is no safe level of exposure and every employer must make sure that anyone who is liable to disturb asbestos during their work receives the correct training so that they can work safely.

The following are the occupations most at risk from asbestos exposure:

Construction Workers

Employees in the construction industry are among those with the highest rates of exposure especially as construction workers often work inside older buildings and homes where the mineral was used in several areas.

Industrial Workers

These workers were often employed in factories and power plants where high heat and chemical exposure were common. They wore protective clothing to resist high temperatures which contained asbestos and they may have come into contact with asbestos while handling refractory products, gaskets and valves.

HVAC Workers, Boilermakers and Pipefitters

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) workers, boilermakers and pipefitters all sometimes worked in tight spaces where asbestos was used and still perform maintenance work or repair boilers installed decades ago using asbestos materials.

Engineers

Engineers often aren’t working directly with asbestos but work closely with those that do and are often in close proximity to the toxic dust created on jobsites.

Farmers

The farming industry has shown high rates of asbestos exposure that often occurred during operation and repairs of farming equipment with asbestos containing components and from the renovation of old farm buildings.

Firefighters 

Studies have shown that firefighters are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma compared to the general public, largely due to repeated exposure while responding to emergencies at

older homes and buildings containing many different asbestos products, ranging from insulation and tiling to roofing materials and consumer goods.

Mechanics

Although manufacturers have moved away from using asbestos containing brake parts mechanics may come into contact with asbestos while working on an older vehicle or when using imported automotive products.

Merchant Navy

Many were exposed to asbestos while performing repairs and other maintenance as asbestos could be found throughout the ships, especially in boiler and engine rooms due to the heat generated in these areas of the ship.

Dock Workers

People who worked in the docks in the UK were often exposed to asbestos whilst loading and unloading cargo from ships. The raw mineral was transported to the UK before being processed in British factories.

Metal Workers

Asbestos was used as a fire retardant and was sprayed on metal beams and attached to metal that was bent, drilled and shaped by metal workers.

Oil Refinery Workers

Oil or petroleum refinery workers were exposed to asbestos inside of old electrical products, cements, protective clothing and thermal insulation.

Railway Workers

Asbestos was widely used throughout much of the 20th century in the railway industry. It can be found in everything from flooring inside of train cars, to brake pads, rail ties and steam engines.

Shipyard Workers

Shipyard workers were often exposed to asbestos while building and repairing ships that contained asbestos in many materials including insulation, pipe coverings and valves.

Simcox Oliver Solicitors are experts in securing compensation for sufferers who have developed an asbestos related disease because of their occupation. If you would like to find out more about the potential of making a claim speak to our team of experts.