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Supreme Court brings justice for asbestos victims

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.

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Failure to identify asbestos put workers at risk

A Cardiff company has been fined for putting the health of demolition workers at risk after a building survey failed to identify the presence of asbestos.Between 15th and 25th January 2010 PHH Environmental (UK) Ltd was commissioned to produce an asbestos survey on the soon to be demolished Old Castle Cinema in Merthyr Tydfil.Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates' Court heard that PHH's client relied on this survey to help its demolition company plan the work. But once demolition was underway, workers discovered asbestos and found they had disturbed it.PHH Environmental (UK) Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000.HSE inspector Steve Richardson investigated the case. He said:"Anyone carrying out refurbishment or demolition work relies upon accurate asbestos surveys to reduce the risk of them being exposed to deadly asbestos fibres. It is essential that those surveys are comprehensive, intrusive and undertaken by competent persons - if not lives are needlessly put at risk."When asbestos fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases which are responsible for around 4,000 deaths a year.

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