0370 1500 100

Widow Appeals For Former University Worker’s Colleagues To Help With Asbestos Investigation

Former University Lab Technician Suffered From Mesothelioma


The widow of a university laboratory research technician who died of an asbestos related cancer is appealing for her late husband’s former colleagues to come forward with information to help in her battle for justice.

Robert Burns was 75 when he died of mesothelioma in September 2010. His widow, Jane Burns, has contacted asbestos related disease experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to help investigate as she seeks to find out how Robert came into contact with the deadly dust.

Robert’s exposure to asbestos dust is believed to have occurred at several universities where he worked from 1951 right through to 1984.  As a laboratory research technician Robert was involved in making equipment for students carrying out research projects.

He worked in Scotland at the University of St Andrew’s between 1951 and 1955 then moved to Queens College Dundee between 1957 and 1961. He then worked at the Gatty Marine Research Laboratories (associated with The University of St Andrews) between 1961 and 1965.

In 1965 he moved to the midlands where he worked at the University of Aston as a Superintendent in the department of Biological sciences until 1984. Irwin Mitchell has brought other claims against this University including that of a secretary who worked in the same biological sciences department between 1974 and 1982.

The laboratories included equipment including Bunsen burner mats and gloves which back in the 1970s were routinely made from asbestos. It is also believed that reconstruction work which was ongoing during the period Robert worked at Aston University, disturbed asbestos known to be within the fabric of the building and that he was also exposed to asbestos dust from use of materials containing asbestos used in the building work.

Roger Maddocks, an asbestos related disease expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Robert was a well liked and well respected lab technician and worked with many PHD students throughout the course of his employment. Many of his roles are likely to have involved handling material at extreme temperatures which could have exposed him to asbestos insulation. It is also known that he supervised a laboratory technician’s workshop where equipment for laboratory experiments, which at times used asbestos materials, was fabricated,

“Mesothelioma is a terrible and sadly incurable form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It can take up to 40 years to develop which can make it difficult to assess the exact details of exposure. We are looking to speak to people who may have worked with Robert at any of these universities so that we can help his family in their battle for justice.”

Jane  said: “Robert was so devoted to his work. He loved being involved in education and helping the students with their research work. To think he became so ill just from going to work every day is very hard to accept. We were looking forward to a long retirement so seeing him suffer in the last months before he died came as a massive shock. I hope that anyone with any information about the working conditions in the university labs or who knew and worked with Robert will get in touch.”

Anyone who believes they may be able to help with information should contact Roger Maddocks on 0191 279 0104 or email roger.maddocks@irwinmitchell.com.