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Widow Of Coke Oven Worker Seeks Justice

We’re representing the widow of a coke oven worker who died from lung cancer caused by inhalation of dust and fumes at work, helping her take legal action against her husband’s former employers.

John Leech, also known as Terry to his colleagues, worked at British Steel Corporation’s Redcar Coke Works for more than 15 years. As a charger operator he was tasked with dropping coal into the ovens, in addition to removing and replacing the lids of the ovens.

There was a lot of dust and fumes in the facility and John regularly inhaled the fumes during his working day, something his wife Karen remembers him mentioning before he died. An inquest in March 2015 at Middlesbrough Coroners Court found that John died of “Industrial Disease contributed to by smoking.”

Our industrial disease lawyers are now taking legal action against British Steel and British Coal on behalf of more than 150 former coke oven workers and their families from all over the country who believe that the dangerous dust and fumes employees were exposed to have caused a range of respiratory diseases and cancers.

Roger Maddocks, a Partner and specialist lawyer in our Newcastle office who is representing Mr Leech’s widow, Karen, said:

“John worked for more than 15 years as a charger operator where he would breathe in the potent and harmful fumes on a daily basis. Many workers like John were put at risk of serious and terminal illness due to their working environment around the coke ovens.

“Sadly John paid the ultimate price and died from lung cancer caused by his exposure to these harmful fumes at work. There are hundreds of other former workers who are suffering from terrible conditions and diseases simply due to the work they carried out on a day-to-day basis.

“They had a basic right to be able to go work every day and return safely, but the number of former coke oven workers suffering with serious and terminal illnesses, who we now represent, indicates that not enough was being done to protect them.”

Karen Leech, a mother of one from Middlesbrough, said: “We were absolutely devastated when we found out about John’s lung cancer and completely shell-shocked when we were told it was terminal.

“It was absolutely heart-breaking to watch John suffer so much following his diagnosis and to find out his cancer was caused by the fumes he was exposed to at work, due to the lack of protection put in place by British Steel, was a kick in the teeth for John and our entire family.

“I hope that the legal action worker and the families of those who have died as a result of the fumes they were exposed to will ensure we all get the justice we deserve and answer the question of why more wasn’t done to protect my husband and others."

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