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Mesothelioma Cancer - The Law & You
ll mesothelioma law involves the risk or actual development of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the mesothelium in the body. Mesothelium is the lining that surrounds most organs. Pleural mesothelioma is cancer of the lung's mesothelium. Peritoneal mesothelioma involves the lining of the abdomen. These cancers develop almost exclusively as a result of exposure to harmful levels of asbestos
Over 1.3 million people are exposed to asbestos in their work environment each year. Building, construction, railroad, factory, automotive, and shipyard industry employees are all potential victims of asbestos related illness and are the people protected by mesothelioma law. Construction workers have the highest risk of exposure to asbestos.
The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (CAW 2002) make it very clear that if you own, occupy, manage, or have responsibility for non-domestic premises which may contain asbestos, you will have a legal duty to either manage the asbestos risk or will have a legal duty to co-operate with whoever manages that risk.
A common misinterpretation of Regulation 4 of CAW 2002 is that companies have to survey their premises to comply with the requirements. This is not the case - the requirements are a DUTY TO MANAGE the risks associated with asbestos in the workplace.
The essence behind this duty is to prevent exposure to asbestos, particularly when the exposure is through ignorance. Informing staff and visitors is not where this ends – for example, contractors attending sites to carry out maintenance work, install cabling or refurbish an area need to be informed of any asbestos risk AND a record of their visit and acknowledgment of your instruction are also required.
A permit to work system has to be introduced or extended to cover the regulations, and the permit can only be issued by the "authorising person" (being a person who authorises any maintenance work in the building). Any presumed, or confirmed, asbestos information also has to be made available to the emergency services.
When identifying asbestos, the rule is that of assumption - unless you can prove materials do NOT contain asbestos then you HAVE to assume it does, and therefore treat it as though it does. This can lead to expensive testing and surveying and hence the need to assess the situation first with a materials risk analysis and an understanding of the location/condition.
Many newer buildings are less likely to have asbestos within them but it is important to establish what is, or is not, there, to record the findings, and incorporate them into a management plan. Initiating the basis of a plan and booking a survey will show good intent to compliance and is the first step to a safer workplace for all.
The penalties for non-compliance can be extremely strong and claiming ignorance of the regulations is no defence. The penalties for non-compliance with the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 can be as follows:
HSE inspectors can issue prohibition notices which can close areas or entire sites
Companies can be fined an unlimited amount and individuals can be fined £20,000.
Responsible individuals can be imprisoned for up to two years
Directors of companies can be disqualified
As you can see, the law related to asbestos is very strong. The good news though is that it costs you nothing to have an impartial initial discussion with a lawyer.
About the Author: For more information the author publishes
The Free Mesothelioma Resource Centre. They have a lot of vital resources for mesothelioma patients and their families.