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Lawsuit over radon exposure brought against Canadian employer

A Canadian widower has filed a lawsuit against her husband’s former employer after he died from lung cancer. 

lawsuitThe Columbian newspaper reports that Carl Murray, a fireman working for the city of Vancouver fire department died from lung cancer in 2013 and his wife, Wendy Murray believes this was due to radon exposure he received whilst at work.

Mrs Murray ‘s lawsuit alleges that the employer knew that elevated levels of radon had been found in the property, including within the fitness area located in the basement, but did not take action to protect employees. According to the lawsuit, the employer “failed to provide a safe workplace” and “breached its duty of care to Mr Murray by acting negligently”.

The lawsuit seeks judgement against the employer, including findings of wrongful death and liability for all damages and costs.

This is the first case of its kind that we are aware of. propertECO Managing Director, Martin Freeman comments that “Action out of tragedy may bring some good out of bad. Radon levels in the workplace are not a matter of choice for workers and they should be protected by enforced legislation. We will be watching this case with interest. Employers need to be aware of their responsibilities regarding radon and, if this case brings the issue greater prominence, lives may be saved.”

In the UK, all employers with workplaces located in radon ‘affected areas’ are required to carry out radon testing as part of their health and safety risk assessment procedure. Additionally, all workplaces containing a basement or partly below-ground level work area (occupied for one hour a week or more) must also be tested for radon, regardless of geographic location. If elevated radon levels are found, the employer must comply with the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 to ensure that employees’ exposure to high levels of natural radiation is limited. This may involve restricting access to certain parts of the workplace or, more often, having a radon mitigation system installed to reduce the indoor radon concentration.

We have put together a helpful guidance documents for employers about their responsibilities to conduct a radon risk assessment which can be downloaded here, and you can find further information on the UK Radon Association website.

Radon in the Workplace Download