BECTU and the union’s law firm Thompsons have set up a register for members who believe they have been exposed to asbestos.

The register is an invaluable database of information that can help to speed up the process of compensation claims for members who become ill due to asbestos exposure. It records the names of members, employers, the workplaces where they came into contact with asbestos and the relevant dates involved.

Holding this type of information on a database enables the union and Thompsons to search for witnesses who worked for the same employer or in the same workplace at the time and so obtain evidence in support of members’ claims – now and in the future.

In the UK about 3,500 people will die this year from an asbestos-related illness and this figure is expected to rise to around 10,000 deaths a year by 2020.

Once dubbed the ‘miracle material’, we are only just beginning to realise the damage asbestos can cause to human health.

The number of BECTU members seeking advice on asbestos issues is increasing. But because asbestos-related diseases normally only become apparent between 20 and 50 years after exposure, it can be difficult to establish precisely when and where exposure occurred.

While the entertainment industry is not typically linked to asbestos, the material was commonly used around and in film and television sets and many BECTU members may have come into contact with it. It was also commonly used to lag pipes and BECTU members may have been exposed if dust from those pipes was present while they worked.

It was commonly used in ceiling tiles and old lighting equipment may have contained asbestos. Plus asbestos sheets were used to construct temporary rooms and to make buildings fire proof for stunts involving fire. Even protective equipment such as fire-proof suits and gloves, commonly worn by stunt workers and to protect against dry ice, were made from asbestos.

This means that a BECTU member who didn’t come into direct contact with asbestos may be at risk if they worked near others who did, and they may also have carried asbestos dust on their clothing.

Exposure to asbestos does not mean that someone will develop an asbestos-related condition. And members do not have to have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease to register with the BECTU asbestos register. Nor do they need to have absolute proof that they were exposed.

It’s important that BECTU has as many names as possible on the register to help those that are already ill or become ill in the future and need to make a claim.

This story was also covered on the News Section of the BECTU website.

For more information about asbestos and asbestos related diseases, visit our information page about asbestos related diseases.