Asbestos related diseases - Advice to clinicians

Should you refer your patient for welfare benefit advice for an asbestos related condition?

As a clinician, you will be well aware of asbestos related diseases (ARD’s) in urban areas like Merseyside. This guide is not designed to replicate other publications detailing symptoms and diagnosis. We do aim to provide you with more information on patients who are not traditionally associated with working with asbestos-Electricians, Laggers (Thermal Insulation Engineers), Plumbers, Joiners etc. Other occupations you may wish to flag up are-Glass Industry, Any Furnace work, Bricklayers in Power Stations, Hair Dressers etc.(SEE BELOW).

A lot of patients will be reluctant to report exposure to asbestos due to the fear of mesothelioma and any perceived stigma attached. It can be useful to ask your patient what they actually did in a job. For instance gas fire manufacturers had workers removing the surplus edges from asbestos containing fire bricks with abrasive wheels. If in doubt please give the patient our leaflet and we can have a longer conversation with your patient to identify any exposure to asbestos.

We can assist with benefit applications or advice with the following conditions.

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung Cancer with asbestosis
  • Lung Cancer with a history of asbestos exposure (smoking history discounted)
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.(see website). We are aware of NICE rules on prescribing medication for IPF patients so we are now assessing all IPF patients referred to us for application to the DWP for industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit for asbestosis which, if successful, will provide a weekly pension (according to level of disability assessed by the Medical Services for the DWP) plus invariable a government Lump Sum
  • Asbestos related Pleural Thickening (new DWP criteria, PT anywhere in the pleura)
  • Pleural Plaques (If substantially exposed in Scotland or Northern Ireland personal injury application may be possible)

Veterans

Patients who severed in the Armed Forces and contracted an ARD can claim similar pensions and Lump Sum payments for their condition.The Government Pneumoconiosis Lump Sum Payment Scheme is not applicable in most posthumous cases. For this reason, referral for benefit advice at the earliest possible stage is always desirable. If your patient is only suspected of presenting with an ARD you may wish to refer for applications for welfare benefits anyway. You can also provide our leaflet to a family member. If in any doubt, please supply you patient with our leaflet. We guarantee to listen and assess.

High risk occupations

Top industries and jobsites whose workers’ death certificates showed asbestosis and mesothelioma as causes of death include:

  • Construction
  • Ship and boat building and repairing
  • Agricultural
  • Industrial and chemicals
  • Railroads
  • Hospitals
  • Miscellaneous nonmetallic mineral and stone products
  • General government (not elsewhere classified)
  • Blast furnaces, steelworks, rolling and finishing mills
  • Electrical light and power
  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • Other manufacturing industries

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, construction jobs were listed on the death certificates of almost 25 percent of workers who deaths were caused by asbestosis.

Isle of Man

The same benefits apply on the Island as in the UK however the IOM have a totally different system for personal injury claims. They do not have a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) system sometimes called a No Win, No Fee system.

Ex-Pat patients

Patients with an ARD who have returned home to the UK can also claim the same Welfare Benefits

Moderate-Risk Occupations

Moderate-risk jobs place employees in conditions where they may work directly or indirectly with asbestos materials. The concentration of asbestos fibers in such working environments can range from low to high and may vary by day and jobsite.

Some jobs in this category expose workers to low levels of asbestos, but the frequency is enough for workers to inhale or ingest harmful amounts of asbestos over time. Other jobs may infrequently expose workers to high levels of asbestos. Regardless of the concentration, asbestos fibers can accumulate in the body over time and cause biological changes that lead to cancer.

Occupations with a moderate risk of asbestos exposure include:

  • Auto mechanics
  • Blacksmiths
  • Carpenters
  • Cement plant workers
  • Chemical plant workers
  • Engineers
  • HVAC mechanics
  • Electricians
  • Linotype technicians
  • Metal workers
  • Oil refinery workers
  • Paper mill workers
  • Plumbers
  • Railroad workers
  • Steel mill workers

Low-Risk Occupations

Low-risk jobs infrequently place workers at risk of asbestos exposure. The concentration of asbestos in the workplace may be low or moderate. It may spike if a more dangerous project, jobsite or product is encountered. Even low-level asbestos concentrations can cause mesothelioma if someone is exposed regularly for years.

Occupations with a low risk of asbestos exposure include:

  • Aircraft mechanics
  • Appliance installers
  • Hairdressers
  • Teachers

Other At-Risk Occupations

Demolition Crews

Another occupation that places workers at risk for asbestos exposure is asbestos remediation and decontamination. As older buildings with asbestos in their walls, floors, attics, ceilings and roofs are torn down, demolition crews, bulldozer and crane operators, and other laborers can become exposed to asbestos dust.

Other Occupations

More recently it was discovered that mechanics and operators of Linotype machines used in large-scale printing operations are susceptible to asbestos exposure. Workers in several unlikely occupations, such as baking and painting, also faced asbestos exposure.

Other occupations where asbestos exposure was common include:

  • Aerospace workers
  • Bakers
  • Brake and clutch manufacturers
  • Building inspectors
  • Contractors and building managers
  • Excavator
  • Floor coverers
  • Glass factory workers
  • Job and die setters
  • Longshoremen
  • Machinists
  • Mixing operatives
  • Packing and gasket manufacturing workers