Contract In Secret War Bunker Exposed BT Worker To Lethal Dust
A former telecoms engineer, who has been diagnosed with an asbestos related cancer, after he was exposed to lethal fibres whilst installing phone lines at a top secret war bunker, has been awarded £115,000 in an out of court settlement.
In May this year, 82 year old Bernard John Mottram from Bath was given the shocking news that he has Mesothelioma, an incurable asbestos related cancer. The former British Telecom engineer now fears he may not live long enough to celebrate his Diamond Wedding anniversary in September 2011.
Workplace illness expert, Satpal Singh at Irwin Mitchell, who successfully launched legal action against British Telecom on Mr Mottram’s behalf, commented: “Until earlier this year, Mr Mottram had been very fit and active. The diagnosis of cancer has been a huge blow to him and his family and in particular, they were shocked to discover that his illness was caused as a result of being exposed to asbestos at work.
“BT has now admitted that it was negligent in failing to protect Mr Mottram during his work for them.
“Sadly, Mr Mottram’s case is not isolated. For more than ten years I have acted for technicians who have been exposed to asbestos during employment with British Telecom. It is always very sad to learn of such exposure, particularly at a time when the law required British Telecom to have taken better steps to protect them.
“As the delay between exposure to asbestos dust and the onset of symptoms can be 20 years or longer, workers like Mr Mottram, are only now making the shocking discovery that their health has been affected as a result. Although, sadly no amount of money can turn back the clock, the settlement will at least provide Mr Mottram and his family with some financial security.”
Exposure To Asbestos
As a technician working for British Telecom from 1970 to 1991, Mr Mottram was required to install new telephone lines at old office blocks, factories, schools, hospitals, as well as Army and Air Force bases. He recalls regularly working around asbestos lagged pipe-work and encountering asbestos fire-stops. Mr Mottram also remembers drilling through asbestos sheets to run cables.
However, one contract in particular, undertaken in 1991 at the Corsham Underground bunker, sticks in his mind.
Wiltshire-based Corsham Underground is a 35 acre underground city, built during the late 1950s, as an emergency Government War Headquarters. At over a kilometre in length and with more than 60 miles of road, the former top secret bunker, code named ‘Burlington’ could have accommodated 4,000 Government workers, in complete isolation from the outside world for up to three months. The bunker remained fully operational for more than 30 years, until the end of the Cold War.
Mr Mottram recalls: “For about six months, towards the end of my employment with BT in 1991, I was installing new cabling and telecom equipment at Corsham Underground. I remember I had to use an 800 watt electric drill which wasn’t really powerful enough for the job. This meant that I had to use my shoulder and have my face close to the surface that I was drilling into. The drilling generated a lot of white & grey dust. It hung in the air like a faint haze. I have since learnt that asbestos was present in the fabric of the buildings at Corsham Underground.
“At the time, I was not provided with any form of facial mask or protective breathing apparatus or warnings about the dangers of asbestos, during my time as a Technician for BT. I retired when I was 63 as part of a redundancy programme.”
Mr Mottram first became unwell earlier this year, when in February he began to suffer from breathlessness and chest pain. His GP referred him to the Royal United Hospital (RUH) for further investigations. Mr Mottram’s breathing continued to deteriorate and he was admitted to the RUH for scans and a biopsy. He was subsequently diagnosed with Mesothelioma.
Mr Mottram added: “My wife, Christine and I have three children, eight grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. We had been looking forward to celebrating our Diamond Wedding anniversary next year, but this incurable disease means that we don’t know if I will be around then.”