Who is most at risk from asbestos at work?

Anyone working with, or near, asbestos, especially in the building industry.

Many of today's asbestos victims worked in building trades. They were carpenters, joiners, shopfitters, plumbers, electricians and demolition workers. They were exposed to asbestos dust in their day-to-day work with asbestos materials, or because work with asbestos was carried out near them. Many have worked for more than one employer where asbestos is present on site.

If you carry out any repair or maintenance work in buildings with asbestos materials, you could be exposed to asbestos dust and breathe it in without realising it. Although you may be exposed only to small quantities, if this is repeated often it can build up in your lungs. You could develop an asbestos-related disease in later years.

Teachers' unions are particularly concerned about the presence of asbestos in school buildings.

In an important victory for asbestos victims in March 2011, the Supreme Court upheld awards of compensation to the families of Dianne Willmore and Enid Costello, who died from mesothelioma after exposure to low levels of asbestos. Dianne died aged just 49 following exposure from when she was a pupil at school, and Enid was exposed when she worked as a secretary at Greif (UK) Limited. The Court confirmed that employers will still be liable even if the exposure is to 'low levels' of asbestos, as long as the asbestos made a 'material contribution' to the cause of death.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.