When I first started dealing with asbestos related illness cases most of my clients were employed in what we called heavy industry. This included shipbuilders, power station workers and those employees in heavy manufacturing. Over the last decade or so I have been dealing with more and more victims of mesothelioma who worked for the General Post Office who later became British Telecom.
At first you may struggle to see how some of these victims could have been exposed to asbestos dust and fibres when they seemingly had jobs that would not have brought them into contact with the substance. They were not manufacturing anything with asbestos products and certainly were not involved in heavy industry. We have to question how did they contract mesothelioma,a condition almost always caused through the inhalation of asbestos fibres and dust?
Part of my role as their solicitor and legal adviser is to explore their working past and piece together how they came to be exposed to asbestos dust. What has become obvious in the numerous cases I have dealt with is that asbestos exposure was commonplace in the telecommunications industry from engineers installing exchanges for clients in buildings where asbestos was used in risers and as lagging between floors where cables were laid, to engineers in telephone exchanges cutting asbestos coated cables before soldering the ends and adding them to the exchange panels.
The exposure was not confined to engineers. We have successfully represented telegraphers who were exposed to asbestos when the telegrams became caught in the belt system above their work stations and asbestos ceiling tiles had to be moved to gain access to the jammed papers. It was confirmed that dust would fall down on to the telegraphers every time there was a jam that needed to be cleared.
I have represented a GPO/BT planner who was exposed to asbestos at various sites. He would be required to visit and inspect the installation of exchanges in large businesses and would often walk around basements and boiler rooms where cables were laid and traced along existing ducting and pipes. Often the pipes would be lagged with asbestos which would be disturbed during the installation.
Most of these clients had one thing in common. When confronted with a diagnosis of mesothelioma it was always followed with the question, “Did you work with asbestos”? In most cases the victims would reply that they couldn’t recall anything obvious and that they had worked in an office or planning etc. From experience, in the 1960’s through to the 1980’s there were no warning signs as to the present of asbestos. Asbestos was widely used in many forms from insulation on pipes to brake linings on cars and shelving in airing cupboards. In simple terms it was everywhere but it was not always obvious.
It has been known from the 1930’s that asbestos was a risk to health. Certainly from the mid 1960’s onwards it was recognized that potentially low levels of asbestos exposure could cause mesothelioma a cancer caused through asbestos inhalation. Despite this, many GPO and BT workers continued to be exposed to asbestos placing their health and lives at risk.
If you worked for the GPO or BT and have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness contact us today on 0800 294 3065. We will talk you through your options and can guide you through the full claims process.