Asbestos Victim Searches For Ex-Colleagues Following Diagnosis

‘Devastated’ Granddad Launches Appeal In Battle for Justice


A former engineer who developed an asbestos related lung cancer after working as a contractor at Woolworths stores is appealing for ex-colleagues to come forward to help investigate reports of exposure to the deadly dust.

Asbestos related disease experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are investigating concerns about asbestos exposure at Cosmopolitan Machinery Sales and Servicing Ltd in Harrogate, whose biggest contract was with Woolworths, and Andrews Industrial Equipment Ltd in Sedgefield.

Brian Oram, 69, of Hutton Henry, Hartlepool, was diagnosed with the fatal disease mesothelioma in April 2012, which he believes was caused by exposure to asbestos at the companies and says he was ‘devastated’ when he heard about his illness.

Brian joined Cosmopolitan Machinery Sales and Servicing Ltd as a northern area manager in 1973 after leaving the Navy. The company was responsible for installing and maintaining the heating and ventilation systems at Woolworths, Presto and Hintons stores.

Brian said: “I spent every day for five years working in boiler houses at either Woolworths stores, which was Cosmopolitan’s biggest contract, or smaller Presto and Hintons shops.

“I particularly remember the boiler rooms at Woolworth’s branches in Clayton Street and Northumberland Street in Newcastle were especially poor.

“I remember walking around amongst the asbestos debris while servicing the boilers and burners and cleaning the flues. I would be covered in the powdery dust.”

Brian left the company in 1979 to work for Andrews Industrial Equipment Limited in Sedgefield, now called Andrew Sykes Ltd, as a Section Leader rising to factory manager in two years. The company manufactured and supplied heating and ventilation equipment.

He was contracted to supply heating units for Cape Insulation of Bowburn, County Durham, and Newalls Insulation at Washington Chemical Works, where he believes he was also exposed to asbestos.

Brian added: “At the Cape factory the airborne dust was clearly visible. As they were manufacturing asbestos products there and by taking the heating units out and back to the factory again, we were breathing in the dust and contaminating our own factory.

Brian began to feel chest pains and breathlessness in February 2012 while on holiday in Tenerife with his partner Vanessa. He was referred to Darlington Memorial Hospital where he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by asbestos exposure on 30 April 3012.

Brian’s illness has limited the amount of time he can enjoy his hobbies and extensive community activities. He has been a member of the Peterlee Walking Club since 1976, he is chairman of the National Association of Countryside Volunteers, a voluntary warden at the Castle Eden Nature Reserve, chairman of the Durham Junior Regional Performance Centre for Hockey and a technical delegate for England Hockey.

He said: “Knowing that I have a terminal condition is hard to come to terms with, particularly as my prognosis is uncertain. I know I am unlikely to be here in five years and this diagnosis has changed my whole life and those of my partner, children and grandchildren.

“I hope my former colleagues can now help Irwin Mitchell investigate my concerns about possible exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma has massively affected my quality of life, so I also hope to raise awareness about the devastating impact mesothelioma can have.”

Isobel Lovett, an asbestos related disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell representing Brian, said: “Even in the 1960s and 1970s employers knew of the risks associated with asbestos and the dangers of inhaling lethal fibres.

“Mesothelioma is an asbestos related cancer for which there is sadly no cure. Although it can take many years from exposure to onset of the illness, once diagnosed it can be very aggressive and debilitating.
“Brian worked hard all his life and through no fault of his own has been left suffering with such an awful terminal illness.
“In order to help Brian in his fight for justice, we are keen to hear from people who either worked with him at Cosmopolitan Machinery Sales and Servicing Limited and Andrews Industrial Equipment Ltd, or for these companies at the time. They may have key information about the presence of asbestos and working practices at the companies which can help our case.”

Anyone with information should contact Isobel Lovett at Irwin Mitchell on 0191 279 0104 or email