Lawyer Urges Action Ahead Of Workers Memorial Day
Lawyers representing a Suffolk electrician 'devastated' by a diagnosis of mesothelioma are today urging employers across the UK to consider the ‘fatal consequences’ of inadequate health and safety standards in the workplace.
The call from law firm Irwin Mitchell’s leading asbestos related disease team is a timely reminder as the country prepares to remember those who have died as a result of workplace injury or illness on this years Worker’s Memorial Day, April 28.
After more than 30 years as an electrician Peter Rose, now 81, from Woodbridge hung up his tools planning to enjoy his retirement alongside wife Nancy.
Whilst he remained active, walking around four or five miles every day, in about August 2009 Peter began experiencing difficulties breathing forcing him to seek urgent medical advice.
Just months later he received the devastating news that after years of negligent exposure to asbestos at work he had developed mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by exposure to the deadly dust.
An x-ray at Ipswich Hospital revealed a build up of fluid on his lung and Peter underwent an operation after being referred to a specialist at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. And in November 2009 he received the dreadful diagnosis.
Earlier this year his lawyer, Rosemary Giles from Irwin Mitchell, secured £128,000 for Peter and his family from his employers in an out of court settlement, securing his access to any care or equipment he may need as a result of his illness.
She said: “It is important to remember that for many clients who come to us for help in their battles for justice money is not a priority. Though they want security for their families most victims also want answers, assurances that lessons have been learnt and every measure put in place to protect future workers from the same fate.
“Mesothelioma is a truly horrific, fast developing disease that has fatal consequences and I would urge employers to consider this when looking at the health and safety measures they have in place to protect staff.”
Regularly exposed to asbestos throughout his career as an electrician Peter was never provided with protective equipment by his employers. “In the 60’s I worked at a power station which was under construction and pipes were being lagged with asbestos in close proximity to where I was carrying out my work.
“For the rest of my career I was responsible for electrical installation and maintenance at RAF Bentwater and RAF Woodbridge where engineers regularly replaced the asbestos in boiler houses, just throwing it to one side.
“I was never given equipment or clothing to protect me from the asbestos at either job, or told about the dangers of exposure to the dust.”
“I was always so active before my diagnosis; I used to walk four or five miles a day. But now my chest hurts, and I struggle with my breathing. It’s completely devastated me and my family, and turned our lives upside down.
“Such a disregard for my safety and the safety of those who worked with me is a disgrace. I only hope that by speaking out today while I still have the chance other employers take the role of protecting their workers more seriously, and that no one else should have to suffer as we have.”
Rosemary said: “The circumstance in which Mr Rose was exposed to asbestos is simply unacceptable and, sadly, he is not alone. The latest statistics show that more than 2000 people died from mesothelioma in 2008, and thousands more died as a result of other occupational cancers and diseases as a result of workplace exposure.
“Workers’ Memorial Day is a stark and chilling reminder of the hundreds of lives that are lost needlessly each year and of the knock-on effects as families across the country are left devastated.
“And, as we gather to remember those who have died at work, it is more urgent than ever for employers to treat safety as the highest possible priority.”
Rosemary also urged the Government to press on with plans to form an Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) which would protect workers left ill or seriously injured, in cases where no insurer could be found adding: “Our cases often highlight the problems caused when insurers cannot be found and setting up an ELIB would provide invaluable support to people left injured or ill. It would, of course, still be considerably preferable if nobody was injured or made ill at their workplace, but an ELIB would help those with nowhere to turn when the worst happens.”
Notes to editors:
The most recent available HSE figures show that, across the UK:
2249 people died from Mesothelioma in 2008 and thousands more from other occupational cancers and diseases
152 workers were killed at work, a rate of 0.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers
By industry, fatalities in 2009/10 occurred in:
Construction (42 fatalities)
The service industry (41)