Member receives compensation for asbestos disease

A Unite member from Cambridgeshire has been awarded £165,000 in compensation after exposure to asbestos caused him to develop the fatal disease, mesothelioma.

The member was exposed to asbestos when working for an electrical firm in Peterborough from 1966 to 1968, where he completed his apprenticeship. From 1969 to 1971 he worked as a maintenance electrician at a heating company. In both roles, he worked near colleagues mixing and applying asbestos lagging to pipework.

He also worked for two other firms as an oil fired service engineer between 1971 and 1978, where the member would have to regularly cut and replace wicks in boilers that were made of asbestos, which would cause the dust to spread on his face and clothes.

None of the 69-year-old’s employers warned him about the dangers of asbestos or gave him protective equipment to wear.

The member was prompted to visit his GP when pain from an injury to his ribs didn’t go away. After he developed breathing difficulties his lungs were tested and an x-ray discovered fluid on his lung, which led to his diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Symptoms of mesothelioma can take up to 40 years to develop, and more than 2,500 people are diagnosed with the disease in the UK every year.

He contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate a compensation claim on his behalf.

The member said: “The past year has been a living nightmare for me and my wife. Since my diagnosis I’ve had various procedures to help ease the pain, including surgery to try and remove the tumour. Although it’s helped me in the short term, I really worry about how my health is going to be in the future.

“I became aware later in life that working with asbestos could be dangerous, but when my doctor explained to me how even the smallest exposure can lead to the development of an asbestos-related disease it really put things in perspective. I just wish I had known this when I was younger.”

Peter Kavanagh, regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “Our member worked in a variety of jobs throughout the 1960s and 70s, but in every instance his employer would disregard his health and expect him to work in close proximity with asbestos. The stark reality of this is that he now struggles with his health on a daily basis and relies on heavy doses of medicine to attempt to ease the pain.

“A thorough investigation of his work history pinpointed his exposure to asbestos, meaning it was possible to ensure that with specialist support from Unite Legal Services he quickly received 100% compensation at a time when he and his family needed it most.”