Our Asbestos Team have jointly been dealing with asbestos disease claims for many decades and have a wealth of knowledge about how different workers were exposed to asbestos. We thought it would be useful and interesting to consider some particular trades that our Asbestos Team come across in their daily work. The second trade in this series focusses on electricians.
The asbestos disease cases we pursue today are due to exposure to asbestos many years ago, typically between the 1950s and 1980s. This is because there is a long period between exposure to asbestos and someone developing an asbestos related condition. However, please remember that not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will develop an asbestos related disease.
As with many other trades typically working in the 1960s, electricians often had a formal Deed of Apprenticeship, although this was not always the case. We have helped those suffering from asbestos related diseases who were exposed to asbestos during their formal apprenticeship, when learning the trade informally and when working as a qualified electrician.
Being an electrician meant you had a trade for life and so young men were keen to get into the industry if they could. The downside was that they started to be exposed to asbestos from their teenage years and most likely had many decades of exposure to asbestos thereafter.
We have acted for numerous electricians who have developed asbestos related conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening as a direct result of their work many decades previously.
The electricians our Asbestos Team lawyers have helped worked in a huge variety of environments ranging from power stations and factories, to private homes. The work of an electrician varied considerably, some working mainly in domestic environments whereas others specialised in industrial electrical installations. However, one thing they all had in common was the use of and disturbance of asbestos materials in the course of their work. We will look at just a few “typical” examples of electrical work below.
In the context of domestic electrical work, some of our electrician clients were exposed to asbestos dust when disturbing asbestos materials as a result of pulling wiring through walls or up in lofts and when removing asbestos sheeting to get to wiring. Asbestos sheeting was used extensively in many homes for boxing in of pipework and wiring and electricians would need to routinely cut through or dislodge that sheeting to get to the wiring or the electrical boxes. “Fluffy” asbestos insulation was extensively used in lofts and electricians would be disturbing that asbestos insulation to work on the wiring.
Some home appliances such as small boilers hung on a kitchen wall or heaters in a living room would have asbestos materials in or around them for insulation and fire-proofing purposes. To work on the electrical wiring, the asbestos material would need to be removed by the electrician. This in turn caused asbestos fibres to be released into the electrician’s breathing zone
Many ceiling tiles – typically in office and school environments – contained asbestos fibres. Electricians have told us how they would remove asbestos ceiling tiles and crawl around in the ceiling voids where asbestos dust had collected. The asbestos containing tiles would become broken and the edges and corners chipped as they were removed and this caused asbestos fibres to become airborne and respirable.
Many electricians were exposed to asbestos when fitting the first electrical wiring in a new building and they worked alongside other tradesmen, such as joiners or laggers, who were using asbestos materials. It was not uncommon for many tradesmen to work together in one area, particularly on the bigger building sites.
Some electrical cables had asbestos cloth sheaths within them and so when the cables were cut by electricians, that released asbestos fibres. Some electricians would spend all day, every day working with cabling for weeks on end.
Electricians also worked on circuit boards and fuse boxes, ranging in size. Some of those circuit boards and fuse boxes had asbestos paper within them for fire proofing purposes. The asbestos paper became damaged and when the equipment was opened by our clients, they breathed in the asbestos dust.
A significant number of our electrician clients were exposed asbestos as a result of working in power stations. Historically, power stations were notorious for containing vast amounts of asbestos lagging on boilers and steam pipes. Repairs to the pipes were ongoing, involving removal and replacement of the lagging covering the pipes in power stations, causing huge, clouds of asbestos dust to accumulate in the air. Anyone working in that area, including the electricians, couldn’t but help breathe the asbestos dust in.
Plant rooms and boiler rooms were another common source of asbestos exposure for our electrician clients. These contained large boilers and plant which produced pressurised steam – the plant and connected pipework being asbestos lagged for heat retention. Electricians would need to work closely to the lagging or clamber over it to get to wiring.
Electricians were frequently required to crawl in small and cramped spaces such as ducts and the inside of huge boilers. Due to wiring and cables being located literally anywhere in a building, electricians worked at all levels of a building and alongside so many other tradesmen who were using or disturbing asbestos materials.
As was typical for all tradesmen during the 1960s and 1970s they were rarely given any kind of protection to prevent them breathing in asbestos fibres. Masks were a rarity and even when masks were available, they were normally very basic paper masks held on the face by a thin strip of elastic placed around the ears.
We have successfully pursued compensation claims for workers who have developed pleural thickening, asbestosis, asbestos related lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you are given a diagnosis of any of these conditions, it is very important that you seek legal advice without delay.
We are here to help you so if you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos related disease, we urge you to seek legal advice from us. We will explore every possible avenue with you and we act on a “no win, no fee” basis with no hidden charges and no deductions for legal fees.
For more information please call our legal experts on 0808 252 5231 or request a call back.