Litigation Director, Stuart Gilmore, has written the following article in today’s Irish News –
BELFAST is renowned for its industrial success, having once provided one of the biggest shipyards on the planet and holding the title of linen capital of the world. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, no city in the world produced more ships, linen, tobacco, ropes or tea than Belfast.
Despite the successes experienced by the city, the presence of certain materials or systems of work meant that the workforce suffered some unfortunate consequences. Workplace injuries and illnesses have affected and continue to affect the lives of thousands of employees and their families, and the costs are substantial – both in human and financial terms.
Asbestos is still the single biggest work-related killer in the UK and it can be years before exposure takes its toll on health. Complications include asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural plaques, and lung cancer. I have even brought cases for family members who have sustained an asbestos-related injury having been exposed to the fibres when cleaning the work clothes of the employee.
Thankfully the introduction of legislation and workplace safety regulations has resulted in improvements and a decline in the number of workers affected by this industrial disease. The material is now banned from use as a result of the serious health risks associated with it, however some buildings built prior to 2000 still contain asbestos-containing materials
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, places a duty to manage asbestos on the owners and occupiers of commercial premises who have responsibility for maintenance and repair of the non-domestic premises. In complying with this legal obligation, the owner or occupier is required to:
1. Assess whether the premises contains asbestos
2. Carry out a risk assessment
3. Make a plan to manage that risk and act on it
4. Provide this information to other employers who are likely to disturb any asbestos present, so that they can put in place appropriate control while the work is being done.
In addition to the legislation, the Health and Safety Executive provides guidance to all employers and employees working within potential asbestos-containing conditions.
Noise induced hearing loss and vibration-related cases also constitute significant sources of claim. Many former industrial workers have sustained hearing damage having been exposed to excessive noise without proper protective equipment. That noise exposure can often lead to noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus, both of which are also compensable industrial diseases. Similarly, individuals working with vibrating power tools without proper protective measures can suffer from workplace injuries like vibration white finger or Raynaud syndrome. I have had personal experience of over two thousand cases in which I have assisted individuals affected by these conditions.