The Court of Appeal has ruled – in Wright & Thompson -v- Secretary of State for Trade & Industry – that dock workers who were registered under the National Dock Labour Board scheme can sue the government if they develop an asbestos related disease.

Thousands of dock workers, who were employed in ports around the UK, will benefit from the decision as it will make it easier for those with conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural thickening, to claim compensation.

Many of those affected were exposed to dangerous asbestos dust while removing raw asbestos from cargo ships in port.

The asbestos was imported during the 1950s and 1960s in sacks, which would often split as they were unloaded. The dockers were never provided with any protection from the harmful dust.

Until now, some workers had to identify the individual ship owners to claim compensation. This was very difficult as many of the shipping companies no longer exist.

Smoke free workplaces

Following the introduction of the Health Act 2006, smoking in all enclosed public spaces and workplaces will be outlawed from 1 July 2007 in England. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are already smoke-free.

The regulations are a health and safety measure to protect workers from the health risks of passive smoking.

With limited exemptions, smoking will be banned in all indoor places such as offices, shops, schools, hospitals, pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, casinos and public transport.

Workplace vehicles will also be included if they are used by more than one person at any time, unless they have no roof or the roof is completely stowed away.

The law will apply to all places that are fully enclosed or “substantially enclosed”, meaning premises that have a ceiling or roof (including retractable structures such as awnings) and less than half of the perimeter walls have openings other than windows or doors. Temporary or moveable roofs or walls do not attract an exemption.