Former steel rigger receives compensation for asbestos disease

A Unite member has been compensated after being exposed to asbestos during his career, which resulted in him developing asbestos diseases including diffuse pleural thickening.

The member was first exposed to asbestos in 1958, when he spent eight years working as a scaffolding contractor for various power stations across the UK. He worked alongside contractors who were mixing and applying asbestos lagging, causing asbestos dust to settle on the scaffolding as well as on his clothes and in his nose.

After leaving this job, he worked as a rigger until 1972, including a contract at a gas works where he removed pipework that was lagged with asbestos. He was also exposed to asbestos dust during further power station works in the 1980s and 1990s.

During all of these roles, the member was never provided with protective equipment or told about the dangers of working with asbestos.

He started to suffer from shortness of breath and panic attacks in 2011, at which point he visited his doctor who arranged for him to have a scan on his lungs. Doctors drained fluid from his lungs and carried out a biopsy, which revealed that he had developed pleural thickening.

Pleural thickening is the hardening of lung lining as a result of inhaling asbestos, and it can cause breathlessness and fatigue.

The member contacted Unite Legal Services who investigated his work history, to pinpoint when and where he came into contact with asbestos.

The member’s nephew said: “My uncle remained an active member of our community well into his 70s, but the diagnosis of his asbestos condition has changed all of that. The physical and emotional distress that this disease has caused him left him living in fear as a result.

“I’d like to thank Unite Legal Services for walking my uncle through every step of the legal claim; he’s been very well supported. I hope this will serve as a reminder for people who worked in similar roles to my uncle to come forward if they have been diagnosed with asbestos disease.”

Karen Reay, regional secretary North East, Yorkshire and Humberside at Unite the Union, said: “Our member had been exposed to asbestos on and off for nearly 40 years, the effects of which only manifested years after his retirement. He had built a reputation in his town as someone who loved to help out whenever he could, but the onset of his condition rapidly put a stop to all of that.

“By turning to his Unite Legal Services after his diagnosis, the retired member had access to specialist legal expertise, which meant he was compensated for the onset of the debilitating disease.”