A Brief History of Asbestos Claims in the UK

For almost a century, the dangers surrounding asbestos and the health issues it caused went largely unnoticed in the UK. However, after the health-risks associated with asbestos became common knowledge, the government put a number of legislation’s and regulations in place so that they could control the use of asbestos in the UK. This once popular natural micro-fibre was banned completely in 1999. But why did it take so long to become banned from within the UK?

Why was asbestos banned in the UK?

The government passed legislative measures in the UK to ban the complete use of asbestos  in 1999 due to the increasing number of mesothelioma cases that were being diagnosed. Over 4,000 people lose their life due to asbestos-related diseases every year.

1906 – The first asbestos related death is recorded

In 1906 Dr H Montague Murray undertook a post mortem on an anonymous person who had worked in the Asbestos industry for 14 years. Dr Montague Murray noticed that the worker’s lungs were stiff and black with Fibrosis. He noted that the Fibrosis was caused by shard shaped asbestos dust that he’d inhaled over the years. Before the unnamed worker died, he disclosed to Murray that he was the last survivor of 10 others in his work room. Dr Murray prepared his report for the Departmental Committee for Industrial Disease, and it was given as evidence to the Home Office Departmental Committee on compensation for Industrial Diseases.

1907 – The Compensation Act is updated

A year after Doctor Murray’s report,  the Compensation Act that was first introduced in 1897 was updated to include six Industrial Diseases to the Workmen’s Compensation Act. None of these diseases were asbestos related.

1924 – The first medical case of an Asbestos related death is published

In 1925, English textile worker Nellie Kershaw, becomes the first published medical case of an asbestos related death due to Pulmonary Asbestosis.

1927 – The term ‘Asbestosis’ is introduced

During this time, a report published in the British Medical Journal introduces the word ‘Asbestosis’, which describes Lung Fibrosis linked to asbestos.

1930 – The ‘Report on the Effects of Asbestos Dust on the Lungs and the Suppression in the Asbestos Industry’ is published.

Three years after ‘Asbestosis’ is coined, the government commissioned a report entitled ‘Report on the Effects of Asbestos Dust on the Lungs and the Suppression in the Asbestos Industry’. This in depth study looked at the risk of Fibrosis in correlation with exposure to asbestos. The study found that high levels of Asbestosis in Asbestos factory workers were becoming more prevalent and legislation was suggested.

1931 – 1932 – The first recognised piece of asbestos legislation was passed

The first recognised form of asbestos legislation is introduced in 1932, after The Asbestos Industry receives Royal Assent in 1931. The legislation passed was dedicated control asbestos with specific concentration in factories.

1933 – Reports of known deaths linked to Silicosis and Asbestosis are recorded

Reports for the annual report of the Chief Inspecting Officer of Factories in 1932 are updated with number of known deaths linked to Asbestosis and Silicosis.

1948 – The Building Regulations 1948 are introduced

Years after the updated reports, Building (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations 1948 are introduced on the 1st October 1948. Regulation 82 focuses on the use of asbestos materials within the building industry. This year the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946  replaces the Workmen’s Compensation Scheme with the Industrial Injuries Scheme.

1955 – A report linking asbestos to lung cancer is published

The British Medical Journal publishes a report demonstrating a link between asbestos and lung cancers. The report is called ‘Mortality from Lung Cancer in Asbestos Workers’. The report highlights the increasing link between Lung Cancers and asbestos exposure, following on from a number of annual reports from the Chief Inspecting Officer of Factories.

1960 – The first clear association of Crocidolite asbestos and Mesothelioma is reported

A report titled ‘Diffuse Pleural Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in a North Western Cape Province’ is published in the British Journal of Medicine. The South African research demonstrates a clear association between exposure of Crocidolite asbestos and Mesothelioma.

1961 – The Ship Building and Ship Repairing Regulations are introduced.

The Ship Building and Ship Repairing Regulations are introduced on the 31st March 1961. This is alongside the Factories Act 1937 which governs the use of asbestos materials in the shipbuilding industry.

1967 –  A Voluntary industry ban on the import of blue asbestos happens

1968 – 1969 – Asbestos Regulations 1969 are introduced

The British Occupational Hygiene Society proposes a safety standard for Chrysotile asbestos of 0.2 fibres/ml. Later research predicts that 1 in 10 workers could contract Asbestos related disease at this level.

1974 – The Health and Safety at Work Act wants more from workers.

In 1974 the Health and Safety at Work Act gives more reaching duties for the employer.

1983 – The Asbestos Regulations are implemented

The Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations are implemented and cover hazardous jobs such as Asbestos removal.

1985 – 1987 – Two types of asbestos are banned and The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations is introduced.

In 1985 the import of brown and blue asbestos is banned in the UK, and The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987 is introduced. This means that harsher dust limits and controls in relation to the use of Asbestos at work.

1999 – The use of asbestos is banned in the UK

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