It has been often asserted that the raising of asbestos awareness in recent years, combined with the pressure to reform legislation and asbestosis lawyers pushing harder to obtain asbestos compensation for their long suffering clients has meant companies are taking their duty of care to their employees more seriously.

However, as is often shown by the news reports on these pages, it simply isn’t the case, in so many appalling instances. This is despite some claims from the media that the dangers of asbestos exposure leading to asbestosis are overstated.

Time and time again, figures are released which show the evidence to the contrary – it is estimated that around 20 tradesmen a week are dying from asbestos-related diseases – and a news story breaks which reveals once again that old attitudes with some employers appear to die hard!

Just this month, a Teesside engineering firm, where two workers were potentially exposed to asbestos fibres, has been fined a total of £3,000 for failing to protect its employees.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 10(1) and 4(3) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 at Teesside Magistrates Court. In November 2008, two maintenance workers, who were relocating a junction box on the company site, were required to drill into asbestos insulation board without taking appropriate precautions.

The lack of suitable and sufficient asbestos risk assessment, nor the employees receiving adequate information, instruction and training, meant that failure to adequately manage the risks from asbestos on the site resulted in the two workers being potentially exposed to asbestos fibres.

When an asbestos-containing material is damaged, or not in good condition and is also disturbed, it can release fibres that, if inhaled, can cause a number of fatal or serious asbestos-related conditions, such as the deadly, and incurable mesothelioma cancer.

Unfortunately, due to long latency periods of up to 40 years or more, asbestosis symptoms may not appear until late in life, presenting a challenge to pursue a mesothlioma claim in the courts.