Shopworkers and asbestos disease – a hidden danger

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Asbestos diseases are often thought to be something that only affects plumbers, electricians, railway workers, builders, Merchant Navy seamen and engineers, but sadly increasing numbers of shopworkers are being diagnosed with illnesses like mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Novum Law’s team of specialist asbestos solicitors recently secured asbestos compensation for a woman who died of mesothelioma after working at a Woolworths store in the 1960s.

Many other well-known high street retailers have been prosecuted over the years for breaching asbestos regulations and exposing shopworkers to dangerous asbestos dust and fibres.

But how were shopworkers exposed to asbestos, and why are they now being diagnosed with serious asbestos diseases?

Asbestos exposure in shops

The use of asbestos in building and construction was widespread during the 20th century because of its insulating and fireproofing properties.

Asbestos was banned in 1999, but in shops built before the ban, asbestos can be found in partition walls, ceiling tiles, fire doors, lagging on boilers and pipes, vinyl floor tiles, and toilets and water tanks.

While shop workers were unlikely to have handled asbestos directly during their day-to-day work, many of the former retail workers we help and support were exposed during shop renovations and refits.

During shop renovations, refits and building maintenance and repairs, shopworkers were often expected to continue to work and serve customers, despite the refurbishment going on around them. As floor and ceiling tiles were cut and walls drilled into, asbestos dust and fibres were released into the air and shopworkers unwittingly inhaled the dangerous particles.

Sometimes shop staff were asked to sweep up the asbestos dust and building debris and clean shelves and dusty communal areas, like stock rooms and staff rooms, completely unaware of the dangers of inhaling or ingesting asbestos.

In other cases, our asbestos lawyers have helped former shopworkers who have been exposed to deadly dust in older shop premises where general wear and tear has damaged or disturbed the asbestos, creating a toxic working environment.

Asbestos compensation for shopworkers

Alan Jolliffe is an expert in asbestos compensation claims. Based in our Southampton team, he has helped former shopworkers claim after being diagnosed with asbestos disease. He says:

“When you think about asbestos disease, you don’t tend to associate it with working in shops. But we are increasingly being contacted by former shopworkers who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, like mesothelioma.

“Often, they describe serving customers as repairs and renovations went on around them, or being asked to dust and sweep at the end of the day after the tradesmen put their tools away.

“Most shopworkers were never warned about the dangers of asbestos and were not given adequate or any personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks to give them some form of protection.

“It’s incredibly distressing to get an asbestos disease diagnosis and utterly devastating to lose loved ones. People worry they won’t be able to get justice, particularly if the shop has closed down, but that’s not the case. We can often track down the shop’s insurers and get compensation that way – even decades later.

“We will fight tirelessly to secure compensation for former shop workers with asbestos conditions, and our team has many years’ experience of helping and supporting asbestos victims, even in the most difficult cases that other firms have rejected.”

How to make an asbestos claim

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease after working in a shop, you may be able to claim compensation.

Our advice is to speak to a specialist asbestos disease solicitor as soon as possible. They will advise you on the best way to proceed with your claim and will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive maximum asbestos disease compensation on a ‘No Win No Fee‘ basis.

If you have a family member who tragically died of an asbestos disease such as mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis or pleural thickening, in the last 3 years, it is not too late to make a claim. Get in touch with our specialist asbestos team as soon as possible.

To find out more, call Novum Law today on Freephone 0800 884 0777, email or complete our online enquiry form.

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