Connect with us


Rochdale Family Wins Settlement In Claim After Asbestos-Induced Cancer Death Case



woman wearing blue dress

The family of Hazel Healey, a former teacher at St Gabriel’s School in Rochdale, received a significant settlement after she died from mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos. This case highlights the ongoing problem of asbestos in UK schools and the need for regular checks to find asbestos in buildings.

Hazel Healey, a teacher from 1971 to 1980, passed away at 73 in May 2022 from mesothelioma, diagnosed in October 2020. Her case against Rochdale Borough Council focused on their lack of action to control asbestos risks at the school.

While at St Gabriel’s, Healey worked in a new building constructed in 1974. It was during this period that she likely came into contact with asbestos. Tradesmen on the site are believed to have disturbed asbestos-containing materials, releasing fibres that Healey and her students inhaled. At the time, the serious implications of this exposure were not recognised, and later, the council’s documentation regarding asbestos surveys and removals was found to be either lost or insufficient.

Asbestos, a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals, was widely used in building materials for its durability and fire-resistant qualities. When asbestos fibres become airborne and are inhaled, they can cause serious health issues, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Mesothelioma, which afflicted Healey, is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs or abdomen. It is notable for its long latency period, often taking decades to develop after asbestos exposure.

This case revealed that Rochdale Borough Council failed to recognise St Gabriel’s as a risk during a government-mandated asbestos audit of schools. This oversight was critical, as significant asbestos removal work at the school occurred years after Healey’s employment, confirming its presence during her tenure.

The legal proceedings, spearheaded by Leigh Day law firm and partner Steven Dickens, shed light on the neglect by successive governments in addressing the issue of asbestos in educational facilities. Dickens stressed the importance of comprehensive audits and proactive measures for asbestos removal to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Michael Healey, Hazel’s son, has become a vocal advocate for raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos in schools. His mother’s sudden health decline and subsequent death before seeing her first grandchild have fueled his campaign.

Reflecting on the broader implications, Hayley Dunn from the Association of School and College Leaders pointed out that asbestos remains a risk in approximately 80% of UK schools. She criticised the government’s approach of managing rather than eliminating asbestos, advocating for a more decisive and funded asbestos removal program.

In response to the settlement, Rochdale Council sympathised with Healey’s family. They mentioned the complexities of investigating historical claims and highlighted their compliance with existing health and safety laws concerning asbestos management.

The settlement, in this case, underscores the critical need for transparency and proactive action in addressing asbestos in school environments. It also brings into focus the significant role of regular asbestos surveys in identifying and mitigating the risks associated with asbestos exposure. The case raises serious questions about the responsibility of local authorities to ensure safe educational environments and their accountability for past oversights.

Key Takeaways

This decision reminds us of the hidden dangers in many UK schools and the need for strict safety practices. Hazel Healey’s story, a teacher whose life was cut short by a preventable workplace danger, calls for safer school conditions nationwide.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2024 Billy Armstrong.