If you worked as a bricklayer or a bricklayer's mate during your career in construction, then it is very likely that you may have been exposed to ‘asbestos containing materials' (ACMs).
Bricklayers are just one type of construction specialist who may be at risk, and many have now been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases.
About asbestos and its health risks
Historically asbestos was used widely as a construction material across residential, commercial, industrial and public sector developments. These naturally occurring fibres were celebrated for their insulating qualities and flame retardancy.
Not much was known about the dangers surrounding ACMs until the 1970s when legislation was passed to regulate the use of asbestos in construction and limit further exposure. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asbestos exposure causes around 5,000 deaths per year, which equates to around 20 tradesperson deaths per week.
Have you been exposed to asbestos?
To date asbestos has been reported in an estimated half a million buildings throughout the UK, contaminating factories, offices, homes, schools and hospitals.
Tradespeople in particular, such as bricklayers, plumbers, laggers and builders, are deemed at high risk. Despite regulations being enforced more than 30 years ago, any tradesperson who has worked on a building that underwent refurbishment before 2000 is thought to be at risk of asbestos exposure.
Tradespeople who are the most at risk are those that have also worked on an unfamiliar site where:
- ACMs have been identified
- a risk assessment hasn't been carried out
- precautions to work safely with asbestos haven't been taken
- inappropriate information, instruction or training has not been given.
Whilst asbestos is no longer used to make construction products, bricklayers who are refurbishing properties which consist of old cement blocks, mortar and firebricks may find themselves exposed to harmful asbestos fibres.
Working with asbestos
While the construction industry has a series of safety procedures in place these days - including an approved code of practice, Control of Asbestos regulations, asbestos licensing and ‘duty to manage' guidelines - workers are still currently at great risk of exposure.
It is important to remember that the presence of asbestos fibres in the air cannot be seen or smelt, and asbestos can manifest in the internal or external structure of either residential or industrial buildings. Asbestos can be found in sprayed coatings, loose fill insulation, lagging, partition walls, AIB fire door panels, vinyl floor tiles, boilers and textured decorative coatings adhered to a property's walls or ceilings.
Cement roofs, panels, gutters, downpipes, soffits and flues may also contain asbestos.
Diagnosing an asbestos-related disease
There are four main asbestos-related diseases - mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and plural plaques – each of which carries its own symptoms.
Mesothelioma is perhaps the most common disease affecting tradespeople and other individuals who have been exposed to asbestos. This type of cancer can develop after the slightest exposure to asbestos fibres, and affects the lining of the lungs and the lower digestive tract.
The majority of asbestos-related diseases do not affect the individual immediately, with symptoms occurring in later life. However, once symptoms like lower back and chest pain, breathlessness, persistent coughing and fever present themselves it is important to seek medical attention and diagnosis immediately.
In certain cases, asbestos-related disease is incurable.
Your asbestos claim
If you or a member of your family have been exposed to asbestos at work or diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, contact our expert solicitors today on 0800 508 8747 or submit an online enquiry form to discuss your claim.