Asbestos Injury – Fire-fighters Claim for Exposure to Asbestos. Fire-fighters are one of the few professions that continue to be exposed to asbestos in the line of duty. Often they are the first responders to the scene of a fire. This presents many hazards and it is often unclear what risks they are facing, particularly in older buildings built between the 1930’s and 1970’s. Many were made with toxic materials including asbestos roofing, cement, tiles, insulation, and pipe insulation. A burning building constructed with asbestos materials, even though it is heat resistant will burn at extreme heat. The fibres then become airborne and are inhaled or can adhere to work clothes, hair and skin if the correct protective clothing and breathing apparatus are not worn. There does not appear to have been any reported cases of fire-fighters having successfully made a claim against the Fire Service in Ireland. In the UK there have been a number of cases, but the majority have settled as follows:
In February 2000, a terminally ill fire-fighter won substantial damages in an out-of-court settlement against the South Yorkshire Fire Service. He alleged he had been exposed to asbestos while using asbestos blankets to put our chimney fires and through performing training drills without breathing equipment in ducts containing asbestos-lagged pipes in the 1970’s. On the eve of the matter coming on for hearing the fire service made an offer and the action was settled.
In January 2013, after a four-year battle for compensation, a former Hull fireman aged 84 agreed an out-of-court settlement with the Humberside Fire and Rescue Service. He had been employed at Hull Fire Brigade from 1951 to 1969 where he had been employed as a fire fighter and also spent a lot of time on a fireboat from which asbestos used to crumble off the pipe-work.
In February 2013, 54-year-old Fire-fighter, Douglas Garnham, a fireman instituted legal proceedings in the UK High Court against Surrey Fire and Rescue Service. He alleges that he was exposed to asbestos while working for the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In a High Court writ it is alleged that there is a link between his mesothelioma and his exposure to asbestos when he worked for the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service. His legal representatives maintain that he was exposed to “clouds of asbestos dust and fibres” during training and when he attended fires containing asbestos materials.
On an undetermined date, a London Court awarded the widow of a fire-fighter £175,000. Robin Cambell had been exposed to asbestos as a fire-fighter and went on to develop mesothelioma. Following his death, his widow made a claim for compensation and loss of income.
In G v. Essex County Council, Mr G alleged that he had been exposed to asbestos dust whilst serving as a fire fighter in the Essex Fire Brigade during the period 1972 to 1990. In particular, Mr G had fought fires in farm buildings which had asbestos corrugated roofs and these roofs often shattered in the course of fires. Also, after fires had been put out, Mr G pulled down internal walls and false ceilings which contained asbestos, as well as asbestos corrugated roofs to check for “hot spots” which could cause a fire to reignite. Mr G also cleared debris, which included asbestos materials, after fires had been put out. He was not provided with any protection against breathing in asbestos dust.
Mr G had served as a seaman in the Royal Navy between 1963 and 1971, but did not recall any exposure to asbestos dust during his service. Proceedings were issued against the authority responsible for the Essex Fire Brigade, Essex County Council in 2003. The claim is reported to have settled out of Court in March 2004 for approximately the full liability value of Mr. G’s claim.
In the US litigation is ongoing and there are a number of claims being brought by fire fighters arising out of the 9/11 events.
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