A Unite member has been awarded £180,000 in compensation after exposure to asbestos at work caused him to develop the fatal disease, mesothelioma.
The 73-year-old, from Middlesbrough, was employed by a chemical manufacturer between 1957 and 1972, first as a messenger boy before he started an apprenticeship to qualify as a maintenance worker. In the latter two roles, the member worked alongside laggers who would mix and apply fresh asbestos to pipework as well as remove asbestos lagging used as insulation, so that he could complete repair work.
He was never provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) or warned about the dangers of working with asbestos.
During a family holiday, the member began suffering from breathlessness, which prompted him to visit his GP. An x-ray and a CT scan found that a build-up of fluid was causing pressure on his lungs, and further tests confirmed that he had developed the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.
He contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate a claim for compensation.
The Unite member said: “I was always a hard worker and enjoyed my job. I thought I would have been protected from dangers in the workplace but my employer failed to do this. I was absolutely devastated when I found I had mesothelioma - my diagnosis was a complete shock to me and my family.
“I completed my course of chemotherapy in January, which initially halted the growth of the tumour. Unfortunately, a scan in June revealed progression of the tumour for which further NHS treatment will have little benefit. As a result, the only option I have to ease the pain is to try new and expensive drugs, only available privately.
“I’m extremely grateful for the service provided by Unite, it ensured my claim was handled quickly and compassionately, so that I can rest assured my wife has financial security in the future.”
Karen Reay, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “Through no fault of his own, our member has fallen victim to the negligence of his employer who did not protect him against the dangers of the toxic asbestos. Sadly, his situation is not unique and cases like this have become more and more prevalent over the last 60 years, resulting in a rapid increase of the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma. It’s estimated that 90,000 more people will lose their lives as a result of the disease by 2050.
“Due to his union membership, he has been able to receive the specialist support of Unite Legal Services, which has ensured that he received compensation just six months after he started his claim with us.”