Our specialist Asbestos Disease Team have jointly been dealing with asbestos disease claims for many decades and have a huge amount 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 regularly come across in their day to day work. The third trade in this series focusses on plumbers. Our earlier blogs comment on the work carried out by carpenters/joiners and electricians.
As with all the trades covered in this series, plumbing was considered to be an excellent trade to learn and it was a job for life. Plumbers would typically start their career under an apprenticeship although it was also not unusual for them to also be employed by a company as an informal junior and just learn the job as they went along. Either way, the apprentice or junior would work alongside a qualified plumber and be introduced to the various jobs a plumber carried out.
We have learned from working with our clients, plumbers didn’t just deal with leaky pipes. They would be called upon to do a variety of jobs, including fixing breakdowns on machinery and working on boilers.
Plumbers tended to have a mix of work in domestic and industrial environments. When working in a domestic environment, they would often come across asbestos fibres when cutting up Asbestolux sheeting, typically used to box-in pipework they had just completed. They may also have had to first remove the original asbestos sheeting material around the pipework – that original sheeting would often have been damaged due to deterioration over time. Any cutting or removal of asbestos materials such as Asbestolux would cause asbestos dust to be thrown up into the plumber’s face.
We have acted for many plumbers over the years who have told us how their employer would secure a contract of work from a local authority who required plumbers to work in new builds or to refurbish existing buildings. This would require the same work to be carried out across numerous, sometimes hundreds, of properties. Such work included fitting or replacing pipework and then either lagging that pipework themselves with asbestos cement lagging or asbestos cloth lagging or being in the same area when a lagger followed them along to lag the pipework. The use of lagging material would have caused the plumber to be exposed to asbestos fibres.
In industrial work, plumbers would often be required to work in boiler rooms and plant rooms. The boiler rooms would often contain more than one boiler and/or be big industrial sized boilers. The boilers themselves and the associated pipework were often lagged with asbestos materials and that lagging had to be chopped off by the plumber in sections so he could gain access to the pipework he had to repair or replace.
We have also acted for plumbers who worked in factory environments and who would be regularly working with steam and condensate pipework. They would be called to deal with blow outs and leaks in pipes, which again would require the removal of asbestos lagging. When the pipework had been completed either the plumber himself (or with the help of his apprentice) would mix and reapply new asbestos cement lagging or would be continuing to work in the same area as the lagger who came along to do that work.
Plumbers would also regularly be using asbestos rope in their daily work. The asbestos rope was typically used to fill gaps around pipework and/or used as a seal. The length of rope required would be cut from a bigger reel using a knife and this would release further fibres.
Plumbers would often carry a small tin of loose asbestos fibres in their tool bag and add water to this to create a filler to pack in small holes around pipework.
As with all the tradesmen, part of their training included tidying up at the end of the job. This would often involve the tradesman, or the apprentice working close by, sweeping up the debris and dust including chunks of asbestos lagging or cut-offs from asbestos sheeting. As asbestos dust was swept up from the floor, it would fly upwards and further fibres were inhaled by the tradesman and anyone working in that area. Plumbers were no exception to this.
Bearing in mind the decades of time between exposure to asbestos and someone developing an asbestos related condition such as mesothelioma, most of our clients were exposed to asbestos during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. We have been told many times by our clients about how working in a dusty and dirty environment with no protection such as masks was completely normal for a plumber.
Employers failed to warn their plumbing employees that asbestos was a dangerous material for health and instead they were actively provided with asbestos materials to use and were told how wonderful asbestos was due to its versatility and various types of use.
We have successfully pursued many compensation claims for plumbers 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.