Birmingham Man In Search For Workmates Following Asbestos Cancer Diagnosis

Painter And Decorator Seeks Former Colleagues


A painter and decorator, who has been diagnosed with an asbestos related cancer is hoping former workmates will come forward with key information to help in his battle for justice.

70 year old Ronald Webster, who was born in Aston and worked for many years in and around the Birmingham area, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the chest lining, in December 2009.

It is believed that Mr Webster, who now lives in Hednesford near Cannock, was exposed to asbestos dust whilst working as a painter and decorator for Perry Barr based Harris & Sheldon Ltd, from 1960 to 1965. The shop-fitting firm, which was later known as Eastlake Ltd, was a large company with several divisions but is now no longer trading.

During the five years that Mr Webster worked there, he worked at a number of sites both in the West Midlands and around the country, including various branches of Woolworths.

Mr Webster recalls: “During one job I did at Woolworths in New Street, Birmingham, I remember that suspended ceilings were being fitted. The ceilings were made up of heavy boards which were drilled and screwed into place before I painted them.

“Over the years, I worked on many other similar contracts at various High Street stores, nursing homes and factories. I know that ceiling tiles used during the 1960s contained asbestos.”

Mr Webster first became ill in November 2009 when he developed a persistent cough. His GP referred him for an x-ray and subsequent tests revealed that he was suffering from mesothelioma.

Mr Webster said: “The diagnosis came as a terrible shock to my family and me. I never expected that going to work and earning a living, would put me in contact with something which would seriously damage my health.

“My wife, Judith, and I have been married for 46 years and we have four children, 1 daughter and 3 sons who have been a wonderful support to me. However, I’ve found it very frustrating and upsetting that in the last few months they have had to see me so ill, struggling to eat and trying to control the pain.”

Iain Shoolbred, a workplace illness expert with Irwin Mitchell Solicitors is representing Mr Webster. He said: “Until very recently, Mr Webster had been very fit and active and until the diagnosis of his illness had still been working as a self employed painter and decorator. The confirmation that his cancer is most likely to have been caused as a result of being exposed to asbestos at work, has come as an immense blow to both him and his family.

“Back in the 1960s employers were well aware of the risks of asbestos exposure and should have protected their workers accordingly. As the delay between exposure to asbestos fibres and the onset of symptoms can be 20 years or longer, workers like Mr Webster, are only now making the shocking discovery that their health has been affected as a result.

“In order to obtain some recompense for Mr Webster’s debilitating illness, it would be helpful to hear from former Harris & Sheldon workers who have information about working practices at the shop-fitters or any of the premises where they worked on site  between 1960 and 1965.”

Anyone able to assist should contact Iain Shoolbred at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors on 0370 1500 100 or email

If you or a loved one has been affected by an asbestos related illness, our solicitors can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos Claims page for more information.