In the UK, the population of construction workers and those in that industry who came up in the 60s and 70s were put at phenomenal risk by employers who used asbestos as insulation. In the follow-up years from World War II, the country needed to be rebuilt after the Blitz and asbestos was a cheap material, readily available to be used in wall cavities. It has since been banned over there in construction work, as contact with the substance has proved deadly.
Sadly, now many of the workforce then are reaching their retirement age, the true effects of that exposure are coming to light, with many being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos and can develop as the result of the smallest amount of exposure. Wives and children of men who worked with the stuff have also been put at risk, simply from inhaling it from work clothes that happened to be contaminated.
As the disease takes many decades to become apparent, it was not an immediate risk. The amount of time it takes for mesothelioma to develop also makes it hard for some people to claim mesothelioma compensation from their former employers. Work histories are easily lost, companies go bust and often, there’s no one to sue when the time comes.
But the financial uncertainty that comes with a cancer diagnosis merits justified compensation for these people. That’s why the UK government has set up the diffuse mesothelioma payment scheme. It allows people to claim from a pot of money if they no longer can track down their former employer, or they don’t know which employer was responsible for their illness.
Recently, a landmark case has meant that claimants no longer have to prove a certain level of exposure to asbestos in order to make a claim. Which means that the women and children of workers, who previously may have been unable to make a claim, are able to through this scheme. It also means families can pursue compensation after their loved one has passed away, even if they don’t have all the history they might have needed previously.
The cap on the compensation award is £125,000 – and the awards are mostly set around ages and circumstance. Those who are diagnosed at a younger age are able to claim more compensation. The situation is certainly cautionary when it comes to workplace safety and the potential of substances to cause harm years down the line. In the years to come, we will see the numbers of those diagnosed hopefully reduce as the use of asbestos was banned in the UK (although many old buildings still contain it).