Asbestos-related diseases - are pipe fitters at risk?

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From the 1940s asbestos was used widely in the construction of homes, commercial properties and industrial premises throughout the UK. It was used extensively as an insulating material.

During this time not a lot was known about the dangers of this naturally occurring fibrous material, and as more and more cases of asbestos-related diseases occurred, it became apparent that asbestos was not quite the miracle material it been purported to be.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asbestos causes more than 5,000 deaths every year. Tradespeople who have worked on any building built before 2000 may have been exposed to asbestos.

Thompsons Solicitors has been assisting tradespeople throughout Scotland, England and Wales with asbestos compensation claims since 1921. As an experienced compensation specialist, Thompsons Solicitors also pursues asbestos claims for pipe fitters, just one group affected by asbestos exposure at work.

Pipe fitters and asbestos exposure

For a number of years, the role of a pipe fitter has been instrumental to the construction and refurbishment process. Pipe fitters play a vital role in the design, installation and repair of all pipe systems, including those which transport gas, water, air, steam and waste products.

Plumbers and pipe fitters have been linked with asbestos containing materials (ACMs) since the use of asbestos as an insulating material became widespread in the 1940s. Its extraordinary heat resistance made asbestos the material of choice for pipe fitters, meaning extended exposure to products containing these deadly fibres was a part of day-to-day life for these workers.

Which pipe fitting products contained asbestos?

There were a number of materials used frequently by pipe fitters in the UK that contained a high level of asbestos. The lack of knowledge surrounding asbestos also meant that these materials were not handled with the protective measures that tradespeople use today when managing or working with asbestos.

Asbestos containing pipe fitting materials that were commonly used in the built environment included:

  • Aircell – a paper product which consisted of up to 90% asbestos. Used to insulate air supply ducts
  • Block insulation – such as carbonate of magnesia, asbestos sponge felt, joint compound and diatomaceous earth
  • Cisterns for cold water storage – used widely in the 1940s, this domestic essential was made up of 15% asbestos
  • Amosite sheeting – another type of insulation used to insulate pipes.

Who else is at risk?

While today's tradesmen and women are trained to work with asbestos containing materials safely, the lack of understanding before the Control of Asbestos Regulations came into force means many lives are still at risk.

Pipe fitters in particular may have been exposed to asbestos during their careers with many fitters handling asbestos products directly and without protection.

The types of fitters at risk include:

  • Gas fitters
  • Boiler fitters
  • Brake fitters
  • Shop fitters
  • Roofers
  • Tile fitters
  • Electrical fitters
  • Masons and bricklayers
  • Iron workers
  • Joiners.

If you work or have worked in one of the roles mentioned above, it is important to understand how exposure to asbestos may affect your health and how to spot the symptoms associated with asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos claims for pipe fitters

If you are a pipe fitter and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, pleural thickening, asbestosis or pleural plaques following exposure at work, you may be entitled to compensation.

Even if your previous employer has ceased trading or you have retired from your role, our asbestos compensation lawyers can assist. Contact Thompsons Solicitors Scotland today on 0800 0891 331 for free, impartial and professional advice.

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