Asbestos Workers Widow Appeals To Late Husbands Work Colleagues

70-Year-Old Dies Just Three Months After Doctors Diagnose Cancer

08.11.2012

The widow of a man who died aged 70 after working with deadly asbestos since he was a teenager is appealing for his former work colleagues to come forward with information about the working conditions at the companies he worked for to help specialist industrial disease lawyers to investigate why his former employers didn’t do more to protect him from its harmful effects.

From the age of 16, Thomas Baker, known as Tommy when he was younger, worked in the roofing and construction industry with five of his older brothers at a number of companies including Butler Building (now known as Portaloo), Atlas Asbestos and Cape Asbestos. Thomas’s work at the building companies, which all had depots in the East End of London, involved installing asbestos-insulated roofs, walls and ceilings in new and old buildings.

The dad of three and granddad of nine, from Osborne Square in Dagenham, was well known in the area as one of the ‘Baker boys,’ because his family was so large died in July 2012 just three months after he was told by doctors he was suffering from widespread lung cancer, which was too advanced to treat.

At an inquest into his death at Lancaster Coroner’s Court Miss Sian Jones, Assistant Deputy Coroner for Lancaster, recorded a narrative verdict saying Thomas, who had been a lifelong smoker, developed lung cancer due to asbestos exposure and smoking. The Coroner’s Court heard evidence from a number of medical experts that Thomas’ history of exposure to asbestos had increased his risk of developing lung cancer more than five-fold.

Thomas’s widow, Janet Pinkerton-Baker, has now instructed industrial disease experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell who hope his ex-work mates can provide information confirming details of his work history and exposure to asbestos dust and perhaps shed light on why his employers didn’t do more to protect him.

Roger Maddocks, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Janet, said: “Asbestos-related diseases are such debilitating conditions which have a devastating impact on the lives of victims and their families. Unfortunately, we see far too many cases like this of people who have worked with asbestos but weren’t advised about how dangerous it can be by their employers, even though at the time they were exposed to the deadly dust their employers either knew, or should have known, about the risks.

“Thomas was never warned about how asbestos could dramatically affect his health by his employers and has sadly died because he went to work every day for a specialist asbestos company.

“We hope Thomas’s ex work colleagues will help boost the evidence we already have from some of his brothers he worked with at Porterloo, Atlas Asbestos and Cape Asbestos so that we can finally help his heartbroken family get the justice Thomas deserves.”

Janet, who now lives in Morecambe in Lancashire, says Thomas was heavily exposed to asbestos on a daily basis while working for Butler Building, Atlas and Cape Asbestos where he was responsible for cutting large asbestos sheets with handsaws and grinders. She says he was never advised to wear a mask or protective clothing, other than his normal work overalls.

She said: “Thomas’s work was incredibly dirty and he told me sawing the asbestos sheets and drilling holes in them created clouds of dust, which he couldn’t help but breathe in. Some of his work was also done inside and there wasn’t any ventilation.

“When he came home from work his overalls were covered in dust, even after he had brushed himself down and cleaned the worst of it off. To think he suffered such a terrible asbestos-induced illness which could have been prevented if he was given better advice and protection from his employers is so devastating. We didn’t even know the asbestos-exposure had contributed to his illness until after he died because the cancer took him so quickly.

“I hope that his ex work colleagues can help Irwin Mitchell investigate the working conditions he endured so that we can hold his employers to account and hopefully raise awareness of the devastating impact asbestos can have on people’s lives.”