Court Orders State to Get the Facts on Asbestos Exposure

Judges set deadline for state to offer information on workers exposed to hazardous materials.

The High Court of Justice has given the state six months to set up a database listing all workers who are exposed to dust that is potentially damaging to their health and, as much as possible, to name those workers who have been exposed to such particles, as well as the results of medical examinations they have undergone.

This ruling last week is considered a significant step forward in the struggle of workers exposed to asbestos to gain their rights, as well as offering better protection of workers in environments containing harmful dust particles.

High Court

Asbestos causes several diseases, including the lung disease asbestosis and and the malignant cancer mesothelioma.

The database will allow authorities to follow the extent of the diseases caused by harmful dust particles, better comprehend the risks and establish a policy for medical support and prevention.

The petition to the High Court was made last year by attorneys Hila Yad-Shalom and Itai Glazberg on behalf of Yad-Shalom's father, Avital, who was exposed to a harmful environment while working in an asbestos factory.

Yad-Shalom had been involved in her father's legal battle against the National Insurance Institute. He demands that the the state acknowledge that the cancer her father has been fighting for years was the result of inhaling asbestos particles in his workplace.

After the court's decision was published last week, Yad-Shalom said that she had concluded that the state was not doing what was necessary - and mandated by law - to collect data on workers exposed to harmful dust particles.

A wider struggle

"The petition to the High Court was made in my father's name, but it is public in character and is not about his personal struggle," she stressed.

According to the existent legal regulations for persons exposed to harmful dust particles, the data on patients in Israel was supposed to be collected and handled by a special medical advisory board that operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

In its response to the court, the state acknowledged that no such data was made available to the board.

The court also rejected the state's arguments that the medical board does not have the necessary qualifications or resources to collect the necessary data. The court concluded that unless the board has the necessary data, it will not be in a position to serve as an advisory or guidance body.