Dallas McMillan's Glasgow Lawyers' Blog
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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 countryside management firm has been sentenced over the death of a father-of-four in Barrow-in-Furness, who was struck by a piece of metal that flew off a strimmer at high speed.
Tony Robinson died after a link from a chain, spinning at around 300 miles an hour on a petrol strimmer, became detached and struck him on the back of the neck, causing fatal injuries.
Mr Robinson, a self-employed contractor, had been hired to help clear undergrowth at the site during the construction of the new Waterfront business park. He was using a chainsaw to cut back the overgrown vegetation, with another worker using the strimmer on a nearby bank.
The chain attachment had been added to the strimmer so it could be used for more heavy-duty work. But the HSE investigation found ThreeShires had not properly considered the risks of using the attachment, and had allowed Mr Robinson to work close to where the strimmer was being operated.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of workers and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in prosecution costs.
HSE issued a Safety Alert following Mr Robinson's death, warning that there was a risk of death or serious injury from the use of the strimmer attachment.
It also served an immediate Prohibition Notice against the sole importer of the chain attachments in the UK, which resulted in a nationwide ban on the sale or supply of the product.
The attachment has now also been banned across Europe, after HSE alerted the European Commission to the issue.