According to recent reports, important health and safety regulations relating to the prevention of asbestos exposure are once again being ignored by a number of offending employers in the building industry.

Despite the long battles fought throughout the 20th century to bring asbestos awareness of its’ exposure risks to the attention of UK industry employers, their workforce and the general public, still the basic regulations are being flouted.

In a recent press release, two construction companies were reported for being fined a combined £100,000 (as well as costs of more than £20,000) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for disobeying both the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, which are intended to prevent exposure to the deadly mineral fibres.

The ‘General Requirements’ of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 include:

• Licensing of work with asbestos.
• Notification of work with asbestos.
• Information, instruction and training.
• Arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies.

The lack of compliance with regulations, whether deliberate or by neglect, was a common occurrence throughout many industries working with asbestos materials. Ultimately, a lingering legacy was created by of thousands of fatal mesothelioma or asbestosis victims decades later.

Even as late as the 1980s and 90s, the use of asbestos as an inexpensive and highly effective heat insulator persisted despite the introduction of the Asbestos Regulations in 1969, which attempted to “manage asbestos contact”.

Today, there is still a rising number of mesothelioma compensation or asbestosis claim cases which asbestosis lawyers are bringing to court on behalf of asbestos disease victims and their distressed families. As recently as 2008, deaths from mesothelioma exceeded 2,250 and in 2009, over 800 new cases of asbestosis had been reported. Currently, there are around 4,000 deaths a year from asbestos-related disease.

The HSE recently announced that it would be imposing new stringent measures on construction companies not complying with asbestos regulations. Buildings constructed or renovated before 2000 are allowed to contain specific asbestos products, namely, chrysotile ( white asbestos), which is deemed relatively safe but only if left securely contained and undisturbed. However, a number of tests will still have to be conducted on older buildings to test asbestos levels before any commencement of work.

Companies may be held legally liable if an asbestos disease victim was a former employee who was found to have been exposed to sufficiently high amounts of asbestos whilst working at the company, despite an employer’s knowledge that doing so was a health hazard.