Whether employer negligently exposed employee to asbestos
The claimant was exposed to asbestos whilst working in a shop in the mid-1970s when the escalators were being replaced, causing dust to be released into the shop. Patterson J held that, even though the exposure had been modest and lasted for only a few months, this exposure had caused her to develop mesothelioma. However, the judge went on to find that the employer was not liable to the claimant because the risk of injury had not been foreseen during the relevant period. A floor to ceiling enclosure had been set up and although that would not be acceptable by current day standards, at the time it had been regarded as adequate protection: “It is important though, as the various authorities make clear not to look back with the rose tinted glasses of hindsight and consider the position by the standards operative in 1976”.
Nor had there been any duty to make enquiries as to risk as the work progressed. The works had taken place over a short period of time and “Absent any particular circumstance to alert the defendant to an enhanced or different risk as the work progressed I do not think that there was [a duty to make enquiries]. The protection erected by the defendant was not “clearly bad.”” The mere fact that some of the workmen had worn masks was not sufficient in itself to place the employer under a duty to make enquiries – that was no a clear indication that it had been known that the dust being produced was hazardous.