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The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has welcomed the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that people with the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in the UK will get more financial help under a package of measures in the Mesothelioma Bill. This will include support for up to 3,000 sufferers who currently go un-compensated, and a more streamlined system to speed up the claims process....
The TUC has called for urgent action from the government to deal with the huge death toll from work-related cancer as research is published in the British Journal of Cancer Supplement into the incidence of cancers caused by work.
The study was was funded by the Health and Safety Executive, and found that every year around 8,000 cancer deaths in Britain each year are linked to occupations which equates to around 5% of all cancer deaths in Britain.
Researchers used a list of work-related cancer causing substances identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to calculate the impact of work on cancer cases and deaths, and discovered around 13,600 new cancer cases are caused by risk factors related to work each year.
After asbestos, the main work-related risk factors were night shift-work - linked to around 1,960 female breast cancer cases, mineral oil from metal and printing industries - linked to around 1730 cases of bladder, lung and non-melanoma skin cancers, sun exposure - linked to around 1540 skin cancer cases, silica exposure - linked to 910 cancer cases and diesel engine exhaust - linked to 800 cases.
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Trade Unions have welcomed the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court which will affect many of the 2,500 people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
Mesothelioma is a terminal form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma has an unusually long gestation period, which can be in excess of 40 years between exposure to asbestos and manifestation of the disease.
Insurance companies had tried to argue that employer's liability policies only covered mesothelioma which manifested as a disease at some point during the relevant policy period. The Supreme Court has rejected these arguments, which would have denied compensation to victims of the terminal disease, and ruled that the insurers of an employer at the time of the exposure to asbestos should pay compensation.
In his judgment Lord Clarke concluded that: “The whole purpose of these policies was to insure employers against liability to their employees. That purpose would be frustrated if the insurers’ submissions on this point were accepted.”
Lord Phillips added that diseases are contracted when the process that leads to them is initiated as a result of wrongful exposure to the noxious substance that causes the disease.
The judgment went on to emphasise that these principles apply not only to mesothelioma but also to other industrial diseases.
A Birmingham handyman has been prosecuted after releasing asbestos fibres while refurbishing a kitchen at a flat in Solihull.
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found William Rogers, a carpenter and general handyman, had removed partition walls containing asbestos insulating board at the premises.
Solihull Magistrates' Court heard Mr Rogers had wrongly assumed he was dealing with asbestos cement, which does not require specialist contractors to remove it, and went ahead with the job. As a result, both he and the tenant, who has asked not to be named, were potentially exposed to asbestos dust.
Mr Rogers spread asbestos debris in the kitchen and on the communal stairs and loaded the removed pieces of asbestos insulating board into his car. By law it should have been disposed of by an approved carrier of asbestos waste.
The incident was discovered when a licensed asbestos removal contractor, who was working elsewhere in the building, spotted pieces of asbestos outside and alerted HSE. The court heard the area and Mr Rogers' car had to be decontaminated.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Jo Anderson said:
"Tradespeople are highly likely to come across asbestos at some point in their career. They must make sure they are properly trained so that they can identify it and know what to do next and there is a wealth of guidance available on HSE's website to help them.
"If they have not checked what kind of asbestos is present and they have not been trained to work with asbestos, they must not start work.
"The landlord had told William Rogers that the walls contained asbestos, yet he went ahead with the refurbishment without carrying out any checks. The tenant now has to live with the knowledge that he is at risk of developing a serious lung disease in years to come through no fault of his own.”
Asbestos is the biggest single cause of occupational deaths in the UK, with an estimated 4,000 people dying every year from related diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.