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Newcastle upon Tyne shipyards worker diagnosed with mesothelioma receives six-figure settlement

A Newcastle labourer exposed to asbestos while working at shipyards throughout the 1960s and 1970s has received a settlement and an admission of liability from his former employer.

Posted on 07 June 2023

The man, who we will refer to as Roger, worked as a caulker and burner at various shipyards in the Tyne area, and was continuously exposed to asbestos without being given protective equipment or being warned about the dangers of the substance.

Roger began an apprenticeship after leaving school in the late 1950s at Clelands Shipbuilding Company, based in Wallsend, which was eventually acquired by Swan Hunter Group PLC before being nationalised into British Shipbuilders in 1977. He moved around a number of shipyards, including Richardson’s Shipyard, Wallsend dry docks, and Naval Yard at High Walker.

Asbestos was used extensively when building ships in the 1960s and 1970s. During his employment at Swan Hunter Group PLC, Roger worked in pipe runs, engine rooms, and boiler rooms, all of which contained asbestos lagged pipework which was used for insulation. He worked on ships both during construction and when doing ship repair work.

Roger was required to burn holes in bulk heads so pipes could be pulled through. He had to work inside small pipe tunnels to do this and climb over visibly dusty asbestos lagged pipework. This disturbed the dust and exposed him to high levels of asbestos fibres.

As well as asbestos-lagged pipes, Roger was exposed to Marinite board (which was made from asbestos at this time) that was cut in his presence. Asbestos boards were used to partition the cabins on the decks, tankers, and aircraft carriers. Roger worked alongside joiners who were regularly cutting and fitting the asbestos boards and worked within close vicinity of lagging contractors mixing and applying asbestos lagging to the pipe work.

Laggers sprayed Limpet asbestos onto bulkheads and deckheads and metal beams on the ships. Although Roger was not present during the spraying, he was allowed to return to the area where it had taken place without the dust first being cleaned up.

Protective equipment such as masks were not provided to protect Roger from dust and fibres, and he was not warned about the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Roger developed a cough in early 2022, and following various scans and procedures he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Following his diagnosis, Roger approached Leigh Day’s asbestos department to bring a legal claim on his behalf against his former employer. Roger’s case was settled within 10 months of instruction for over £160,000, plus the costs of treatment should Roger require it in the future, and the defendant admitted liability.

Steve Dickens, who represented Roger, said:

“Throughout his employment, Roger was exposed to high levels of asbestos, the effects of which surfaced over 50 years later and resulted in a terminal cancer diagnosis.

“Roger, as well as so many other labourers at the time, were neither warned nor protected from asbestos exposure by their employers. I hope that the admission of liability from the defendant as well as the six-figure settlement goes some way towards providing a sense of justice for Roger, and that it will help him financially going forwards.”

Steven Dickens
Asbestos and mesothelioma Industrial disease

Steven Dickens

Leading Manchester and North East mesothelioma claims lawyer

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