We have recently represented the family of Mr R who contracted mesothelioma, a cancer caused through the breathing in of asbestos fibres, and sadly passed away in 2017. Mr R had served his apprenticeship in the North East of England working for a company called Andrews Weatherfoil Ltd, where he was employed as an apprentice fitter and welder between 1969 and 1973. He was employed as an apprentice installing heating pipes and systems into CLASP built schools and he would be working in close proximity to asbestos lagging teams in confined spaces such as boiler rooms. Mr R had recalled laggers mixing and applying asbestos whilst he was working within a few meters of them and he described substantial quantities of asbestos dust in the air which he inhaled throughout the course of his working day.
Asbestos in schools is an ongoing concern to parents, unions and the health and safety community. The CLASP system of building used prefabricated light gauge steel frames which could be built economically up to a maximum of 4 storeys. The frames were then finished in a variety of claddings. Initially developed solely for schools, the system was also used to provide offices and housing. CLASP buildings are also well known for the substantial amount of asbestos used in their construction, mainly as insulation used in structural columns to support the building. There are now campaigns to remove asbestos from existing school buildings, many of which were built through this programme in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Despite not having worked with asbestos for decades when he became ill, Mr R was diagnosed with mesothelioma and sadly passed away within three months of his diagnosis. His family were devastated and found it difficult to comprehend how a seemingly healthy, energetic 65 year old man who was running his own business at that time could deteriorate so quickly.
Thankfully, the family contacted us and we met with them in Newcastle within 24 hours of them contacting us. This enabled us to secure the exposure evidence from Mr R in the form a witness statement. We helped the family with their benefit application forms, helped them to obtain probate and assisted the coroner in relation to the evidence for inquest. Eventually, we located the insurers for the company who had negligently exposed Mr R to asbestos, which had long since gone out of business. We were able to secure a settlement of almost £325,000 for Mr R’s widow.
Steven Evans the partner who dealt with the case said “No amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one but Mrs R now has some financial security. This is another tragic case that could have been prevented by the implementation of protective equipment. The dangers of asbestos and in particular the link between mesothelioma and asbestos, was well know in the 1960’s but companies and their insurers seemingly chose to put profit over their employees’ welfare. The amount of asbestos in our secondary modern schools is a national disgrace and whilst we are assured that the asbestos does not pose a threat to health, we are potentially exposing another generation of students, teachers and maintenance workers to this deadly substance.”