According to a recent story from Construction Enquirer, two brothers who ran a billiards hall have been sentenced to prison for exposing workers to deadly asbestos fibers. One of the workers was only 17-years-old at the time of exposure.
Court records indicate the owners were never qualified in demolition or construction work, and were not licensed in asbestos removal. The government health service had issued numerous warnings and citations about the presence of asbestos in the building they were attempting to renovate. The health service issued a cease order demanding that they stop all work involving asbestos.
Despite these government notices, the owners were found to have removed several truckloads of asbestos-containing debris. They took the toxic material to an unlicensed disposal location. Witnesses observed workers covered in dust and not wearing any protective clothing or equipment.
The judge noted that at least seven workers were observed working in this asbestos-filled environment. Both brothers pleaded guilty to conduct which constituted a wilful disregard for the safety of workers. One of the defendants was sentenced to 22 months in prison and the other was sentenced to 14 months of incarceration. They were also ordered to pay £43,000 in fines and court costs.
Our Boston Mesothelioma attorneys note one of the most disturbing parts of a story like this is that there is no way of knowing if the workers will develop a deadly form of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is caused when asbestos fibers become embedded in the lung tissue of those exposed to the toxic substance. Once the fibers are embedded, mesothelioma can develop 20 to 50 years after exposure in typical cases. There are no symptoms or treatment. There is also no way for doctors to remove fibers, and the human body does not have a natural mechanism for doing so.
At some point, workers may develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, severe abdominal pain, and coughing up or vomiting blood. Once these symptoms become apparent, the disease can be diagnosed. But this is by no means an early diagnosis. This will happen years after exposure, when the victim is already dying of mesothelioma.
Like millions of other cases of asbestos exposure, this didn’t have to happen. Workers could have been warned of the dangers and provided with protective equipment. However, the better course of action (and the only legal one) would have been to commission a professional inspection and then hire a licensed and bonded asbestos removal company to do the job safely and effectively.
While the reason this did not happen was not stated, like the many times this has happened before we can only assume the owners did not want to pay for a professional asbestos removal contract. It is this complete disregard for the safety of workers that has led to the many settlements and jury verdicts in favor of mesothelioma victims.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in New England, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Brothers jailed after exposing refurb workers to asbestos, August 21, 2014, Construction Enquirer
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EPA: Asbestos Clean-Up in Mining Town Homeowners’ Responsibility, August 17, 2014., Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog