It was reported in The Guardian recently that asbestos related deaths continue to rise in the UK and are now at crisis level.
According to figures from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) reported last week, in 2017 there were 2,523 deaths from mesothelioma a cancer caused through the inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres often decades before. This is a similar number to five years ago according to the HSE figures. The HSE predict that the number of victims will remain at this same level for the next decade.
Certainly since I have been acting on the behalf of victims of asbestos related illnesses we have been hearing that this is a problem that will gradually fade out. We have had many false dawns where it was believed asbestos related deaths in the UK had reached their peaked. This is sadly not the case and in my experience, whilst the number of victims steadily increases, what has changed is the types of work people undertook that brought them into contact with asbestos.
When I started dealing with these cases the majority of the victims were involved in heavy industry shipbuilders, power station workers, insulation workers and similar. Over time, victims came from different employment backgrounds such as builders, carpenters and electricians. What I am now often confronted with is victims of asbestos related illness who were teachers, nurses, doctors and telecommunications workers where the asbestos exposure is not so obvious.
What hasn’t changed is the fact that it has been well known and documented from the early 1930’s that asbestos posed a significant risk to health. Unfortunately workers and people generally were exposed to asbestos, and are still being exposed, in many public buildings including schools, hospitals and government buildings.
Sadly there will be more asbestos related deaths over the next decade according to HSE, many of which were preventable. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness or someone you know may require information or advice, please contact me on 0800 294 3065.
Steven Evans – Partner and Head of Industrial Disease.