Family of deceased Unite member awarded £190,000 for asbestos disease

The family of a pipe fitter who died after developing the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma has received £190,000 compensation with the help of Unite Legal Services.

The man worked as a pipe fitter for an engineering company in Doncaster from 1964 to 1966, where he would crawl into small spaces that were lagged with asbestos to fit new heating pipes. As he moved through the unventilated area, he would disturb the asbestos lagging, causing it to float freely in the air around him.

In 1967 he worked at two power stations in Yorkshire where his colleagues would mix asbestos near him, and from 1971 to 1972 he helped with the build of a third power station, where he fitted pipework that was lagged with asbestos as he worked on it.

During all of these roles the man was never provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) or told about the dangers of working with asbestos. The dust would settle on his skin, up his nose and on his work clothes.

In 2013, he started to suffer from stomach pains and shortness of breath. He visited his GP who referred him to have a scan, which discovered that fluid on his lung had caused pressure on his stomach. After further tests it was found that he had developed the incurable asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate his work history and make a claim for compensation. Tragically, he died in November 2014, at 76 years old.

His wife said: “My husband would come home from work completely covered in asbestos dust from head to toe. At the time we never realised how dangerous it was, so when he was told he had developed an incurable cancer because of the dust we were in absolute shock.

“He was always very active but soon after his diagnosis he relied on a wheelchair and the help of our son to get around. Having the support of Unite Legal Services has helped us so much in coming to terms with his diagnosis and making sure that we knew that those responsible were held to account.”

Karen Reay, North East Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary of Unite the Union, said: “Nothing was done to protect our member from the dusty and often unpleasant conditions he worked in, and as a result he has paid the ultimate price.

“We would urge any of our members who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease to get in touch with Unite Legal Services to access free specialist legal advice. We will fight for the maximum compensation in the shortest time, like we have done for this family.”