Information Sought On Working Conditions At Power Stations In Essex And Kent
The family of a former power station worker are appealing to his former workmates for help in establishing how he was exposed to the asbestos feared to have claimed his life.
Fred Wheeler, originally from Rochford, Essex, was diagnosed with asbestosis, a condition where the inside of the lung becomes scarred. The condition is commonly associated with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
Following his death aged 83, Fred’s sons instructed expert asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate their dad’s illness.
Sons David, Neville and Andrew have now joined their legal team in appealing to their dad’s former power station workmates for information on the conditions he would have faced during his employment.
They are keen to trace anyone who worked with Fred at Belvedere Power Station, in South East London, from 1958 to 1962 and Tilbury Power Station in Tilbury, Essex, from 1964 to 1969. During that time Fred was employed by John Brown Land Boilers and Foster Wheeler & John Brown Boilers respectively.
Expert Opinion“The initial shock the family felt following Frederick’s death has given way to questions concerning his exposure to asbestos as they continue to come to terms with his death.
“The use of asbestos in industrial settings was once widespread throughout the UK. Fred’s death is another terrible example of the legacy it’s left behind and the impact it continues to have on so many families.
“Nothing can bring Fred back to his family, but we’re determined to help them find the answers they’re looking for.
“If anyone who remembers working with Fred could come forward, his sons would welcome hearing from them. Any details could prove vital to the investigation and in bringing some peace of mind to his family at this difficult time.” Maria Roberts
From 1958 to 1962, Fred was employed by John Brown Land Boilers at Belvedere Power Station, in South East London. Fred was a handyman and fitter and told his sons he worked alongside the laggers on site, who were mixing powder to produce lagging to apply to the pipes.
Fred told his sons that this was always dusty work and all of his workmates had no protective facemasks or clothing when working on the power station.
In 1964, Fred moved to Foster Wheeler & John Brown Boilers, Tilbury Power Station, where he worked as an improver and fitter for the next five years. Fred told his sons that the work involved using rope for caulking glands and vents on the coal crusher.
Fred also said he used gaskets for joints in the ducting, on the coal crusher mill, and on the doors on the damper ducting. The rope was supplied in coils, which Fred would cut to size before hammering the rope into the gaps. Fred left the firm in 1969.
Fred lived in Essex and worked in Essex and Kent all his life, prior to the family moving to Winton, Dorset in 1970. A few years later in 1973, the family moved again to Corfe Mullen in Dorset, near Wimborne Minster.
Fred first started to experience breathing problems in 2010. It was not until his death in October 2021 that the post-mortem examination confirmed the diagnosis of asbestosis.
Fred married wife Pauline (nee Codling) in 1963. The couple divorced in the early 1990s. They had three children, David, 58, Neville, 57 and Andrew, 51.
David said: “Dad started having lung problems a few years ago, but it all seemed to be under control, so his death came as a complete shock, even more so when it was revealed he had asbestosis.
“From discussions following his symptoms back in the 2010’s, we believed dad had encountered asbestos during his working life.
“If any of dad’s old workmates could come forward with their recollections, that could be a huge help in us piecing the picture together of what his work involved at both locations. We know he worked alongside various teams of workers at the time, so if anyone could get in touch we’d be really grateful for anything they have to tell us. It could give us some of the answers we are looking for.
“Our grandfather was also a local councillor in Rochford and worked with dad, so that might jog a few memories among the people who worked alongside them both.
“Dad was so ill towards the end and it was terrible to see him struggle for breath in those final years, with little we could do to help him. You feel powerless in those situations and dad didn’t deserve to see the end of his life come about that way.”
Anyone with information that could help the family with the investigation is asked to contact Maria Roberts at Irwin Mitchell on 0121 203 4025 or email Maria at: Maria.Roberts@IrwinMitchell.com