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September 22, 2018

UK health and safety chiefs hit back in asbestos app row

An asbestos removers’ trade group had criticised the HSEs new Beware Asbestos app, but now the authority has moved to counter criticism

Health and safety chiefs have hit back at claims a new online advice service for North East workers could put people at risk of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

The Beware Asbestos app was attacked by the United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association which said untrained people may be encouraged to try and remove the potentially deadly material themselves.

Now the Health and Safety Executive have moved to counter the criticism, with a spokesman saying the authority was dismayed by the reaction to the campaign, which had won the backing of former Newcastle United defender Stuart Pearce.

“HSE is surprised and disappointed that UKATA appears to be arguing for the removal of free advice aimed at those who might otherwise remain unaware of the risks they face with regards to asbestos,” a spokesman said.

“HSE’s Beware Asbestos campaign is aimed at, and reaching, thousands of trades people and workers who undertake jobs on a daily basis that intentionally or unintentionally disturb asbestos.

“Many of these workers are ignorant of the risks they face when they carry out common tasks such as drilling holes in textured ceilings and replacing old panels around baths.

“The web app takes already existing advice on how to do these tasks safely and presents it in an easy to understand way that workers can carry around with them. “The web app is very clear in stating what jobs tradespeople must not do, and indeed helps them to find and contact licensed asbestos contractors in their area who can do those jobs for them.

“While commercially available training courses, such as those provided by UKATA’s members, play an important part in educating workers on what they must do, it is also vital that as many workers as possible know about the risk they face from asbestos and of the simple measures they can follow to protect themselves.”

Around 2,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year and it is almost always fatal, with most of those affected usually dying within 12 months of diagnosis.

The North East – particularly Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Hartlepool – is a blackspot for asbestos-related diseases, as it was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry.

A ‘standardised mortality ratio’ is used to identify blackspots, where a figure of 100 would be the expected number of deaths, given the age of the population. But in North Tyneside the figure is much higher, at 309; in South Tyneside it is 303; across the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County the figure is 235; and in the North East it is 170.

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UK health and safety chiefs hit back in asbestos app row

Mesothelioma sufferers to receive higher compensation after Government backs down

Victims of a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos are to receive higher compensation following a campaign by MPs

Asbestos-related cancer suffers are to receive up to £54,000 extra in compensation under new rules announced by Ministers.

The change was welcomed by MPs, who said it was overdue – but would make a difference to people in need.

Under new rules for the government’s Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme, compensation will rise to match 100 per cent of average civil claims, up from the current 80 per cent, which could mean an increase of up to £54,000 a person, according to Ministers.

Those diagnosed with asbestos-related mesothelioma from now will benefit from the payment increases.

Mesothelioma is a cancer affecting the lining of internal organs such as the lungs, which is usually connected to exposure to asbestos.

The North East is a blackspot for the disease, because asbestos was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry.

Ministers introduced legislation in 2013 to provide payments to those who cannot trace their former employer’s insurer.

But the compensation on offer was lower than the average compensation people would expect to receive by going through the courts – and MPs have been campaigning for the payments to be increased.

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme has already paid out over £19 million in its first 10 months of operation.

Work and Pensions Minister, Lord Freud said: “For years, many victims of this truly terrible disease have been failed by successive governments and the insurance industry. With this scheme we are continuing to help the many victims and families that mesothelioma has left without financial support.

“From today we are raising compensation payments to 100% of average civil claims. It is partly thanks to the success of the insurance industry in tracing liable insurers and employers that we are able to make these changes as part of our on-going commitment to support mesothelioma sufferers.

“Though the majority of suffers are able to claim compensation through the liability insurance held by their employer, a significant minority cannot.

“Due to the length of time between asbestos exposure and cancer diagnosis, many employers and their insurers no longer exist and so the liable successor organisations are often untraceable.”

MP Dave Anderson
MP Dave Anderson

Blaydon MP Dave Anderson said: “I’m delighted to hear this news, this is what campaigners have asked for for many years.

“At last people who were denied justice by dilatory ex-employers and their friends in the insurance industry will be properly compensated, it’s long overdue but welcome.”

Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, added: “It is great to see that the tariff has increased to 100% however, it has come too late for some sufferers who have since passed away with Mesothelioma.

“I only hopes that the families of the deceased can benefit from it.”

Around 2,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. It is almost always fatal with most of those affected usually dying within twelve months of diagnosis.

A ‘standardised mortality ratio’ (SMR) is used to identify blackspots, where a figure of 100 would be the expected number of deaths, given the age of the population.

But in North Tyneside the figure is much higher, at 309, and in South Tyneside it is 303, reflecting the high incidence of mesothelioma in those local authority areas.

Across the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County the figure is 235 and in the North East it is 170.

Ministers said the number of people claiming compensation under the scheme had been higher than expected.

Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, a soft material that used to be widely used in building construction as a form of insulation and to protect against fire.

Continued here: 

Mesothelioma sufferers to receive higher compensation after Government backs down