A defendant who was a former employer of a mesothelioma victim can sometimes offer the defence that there is no evidence to support the claim by an employee that an alleged exposure to asbestos, which occurred at their workplace directly caused the subsequent development of the employee’s asbestosis disease.
A varied work history…
The challenge is difficult if the employee has a varied work history and was employed at a number of different companies and occupations where they could also have been exposed to asbestos, which may have directly led to the later emergence of asbestosis symptoms.
The difficulty is compounded by the reality that throughout the middle decades of the twentieth century up until the mid 1980s at least, asbestos was in widespread use as inexpensive insulation and fireproofing across many British manufacturing and engineering industries. White asbestos continued to be used in construction until imports were stopped in 1999.
“Peak years” of asbestos use…
Any man or women who was employed during the “peak years” of asbestos use ( 1940s – 1980s) is more than likely to have been exposed to the deadly mineral in some form or other at any factory, work or office premises, most especially in the asbestos-using “hotspots” concentrated in the north of England and the Midlands.
However, a recent mesothlioma claim case demonstrates that it was not only males working in the northern industrial centres that fell victim to asbestos exposure but also their varied work history has made it a challenge to pinpoint exactly at which workplace the exposure was most likely to have taken place.
A female mesothlioma victim from the Bristol area, who passed away in early 2013, recalled that she had worked at two factories from the mid 1950s onwards where the atmosphere was “dusty”. During the 1970s she worked at a local primary school where she remembered asbestos being removed from one of the classrooms.
As can often be the case, the family are now trying to contact former fellow workers who may be able to provide crucial “witness” evidence to identify if asbestos was present at one or more of her former workplaces, especially the school nursery.
The problem of asbestos in schools is, of course, well known and it has become increasingly evident that its presence in schools, nurseries and other public / civic buildings is more widespread in some regions of the country, such as Manchester and Wales than was first thought. Some estimates suggest that around three quarters of all schools across Britain still contain significant amounts of asbestos.
Even brief exposure and breathing in of the airborne dust particles is often sufficient to cause inflammation of the lung linings and the permanently embedded fibres to eventually result in asbestosis disease or the fatal, incurable mesothlioma cancer.
Despite a fall in mortality rates for many other types of cancers, such as cervical, testicular, thyroid and malignant melanomas, mesothelioma still accounts for around 2,300 UK deaths each year and at least 4,700 are asbestos disease related, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).