Asbestos Exposure – A Present Day Risk

Although thousands of people in the UK are currently suffering with asbestos related diseases, exposure to asbestos is often seen as a risk from the past.

Due to the long latency period for the onset of the symptoms of asbestos diseases people suffering today would usually have been exposed to asbestos several decades ago.

Many people suffering today with asbestos-related disease will therefore be at or approaching retirement age and their exposure to dangerous asbestos fibres would have taken place in the 1960s or 1970s.

Because of this and because of the fact that asbestos use is now banned in the UK it could be assumed that there is no longer any risk of asbestos exposure in the present day and that asbestos related diseases would be confined to the past.

Unfortunately exposure to asbestos still remains a real risk today.

Asbestos was only banned as a building material in the UK at the end of 1999.  Therefore any buildings built or refurbished before that date could contain asbestos in many forms.

Risk of exposure to asbestos is greatest when the fibres are disturbed, this would usually happen if a building containing asbestos was being demolished or renovated or fell into disrepair.

A recent criminal case heard at Chester County Court illustrates how asbestos is likely to be present in many buildings and how construction companies need to take care to avoid their employees and others being exposed to asbestos fibres.

Last month GrowHow UK Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations Act and to two breaches of Health & Safety Regulations following the discovery of asbestos at their fertiliser plant in Ince, near Chester.

GrowHow were refurbishing an industrial furnace at their plant, where they employ more than 550 people.

The refurbishment work involved removing bricks and rubble from the furnace and workers carrying out this task had been told that the area was safe.  The renovation had been ongoing for two days before a worker realised that the building materials being stripped and placed in skips included asbestos.

Analysis of the material removed indicated that one of the most hazardous forms of asbestos, amosite, also known as brown asbestos.

It transpired that GrowHow UK had not had an asbestos survey carried out before allowing the project to start and a number of staff and external contractors were exposed to asbestos fibres.

GrowHow UK Ltd was fined £60,000.00 by Chester County Court