Heartbroken Widow Searches For Answers After Husband Died Of Silicosis

Industrial Disease Experts Instructed to Seek Justice For Family

11.02.2014

The wife of a former engineer, who died from an incurable lung disease after being exposed to silica dust when working at a Wednesbury foundry, is appealing to his ex-colleagues for help as she launches a legal battle for justice.

Jai Pall, from Pleck in Walsall, died on 19 June 2012 aged just 61, following a long battle with silicosis - an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling large amounts of silica dust, a natural substance found in rocks, bricks and concrete.

After his death, his wife Gurdev Kaur instructed industrial disease experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether more could have been done to prevent his illness.

Father-of-four Jai worked at AEI Tophill Foundry Ltd on Smith Road, in Wednesbury, West Midlands between 1974 and 1975 where he was a shot blaster which he used to shape and clean various types of metals. The company was later called GEC Foundries from 1976 to 1986 and then became Newby Hilltop Foundry Ltd until 1999 and is still trading today.

Gurdev recalled that her husband would operate the shot blaster iron machines which would produce a lot of harmful silica dust and fumes. He would frequently return home after work covered in black dust and dirt. She believes Jai was never provided with any safety equipment and that the ventilation in the foundry was very poor.

Expert Opinion
Occupational illness can have a devastating effect on the lives of the victims, as well as their families and it is vital that more is done to protect workers.

“The industry is increasingly aware of mesothelioma – an incurable cancer in the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos, and on the whole companies are better at protecting workers from asbestos than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Sadly, this isn’t the case for all occupational diseases, including silicosis.

“On average there are now less than 100 new cases of silicosis being diagnosed each year, but this is still far too many. This is still 100 workers whose lives are being ruined because the correct precautions were not taken where the risks were plain to see.

“We hope that anyone who remembers working with Jai at the foundry in 1975 to 1999 as their evidence could prove vital in securing justice for his family.”
Alex Shorey, Solicitor

Chronic simple silicosis usually is caused by long-term exposure to relatively low concentrations of silica dust and symptoms can appear between 10 and 30 years after first exposure. It is the most common type of silicosis. Patients suffering from this strain of the condition, especially early on, may not have obvious symptoms of the disease, making it difficult to diagnose.

In 2005 Jai initially went to see his GP after experiencing a dry cough and shortness of breath and following tests he was diagnosed with lung fibrosis. In the following years he showed little or no symptoms, until 2012 where there was a significant decline in his condition. He struggled to walk and then needed oxygen 24 hours a day after he was admitted to hospital in February that year.

Gurdev said: “It was heartbreaking to see Jai decline so quickly in the space of a few months. I remember the days when he used to return from work covered head to toe in black dust, but we never thought anything of it at the time. It’s hard to believe that he wasn’t warned about the dangers or the dust or that he and his colleagues were not given any protective clothing as a precaution.

“We had been married for 38 years and did everything together. He was very active and he enjoyed socialising with his friends and spending time with his children and six grandchildren, I hope that his former colleagues can come forward with any information to help with the investigation and to secure justice for Jai.”

Anyone who thinks they may be able to help is asked to contact Alex Shorey at Irwin Mitchell on 0121 214 5493 or email alex.shorey@irwinmitchell.com.

If you or a loved one has suffered from respiratory problems - such as occupational asthma or silicosis - caused by conditions at work, our solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Industrial Disease Claims page for more information.