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Widow Tells Of ‘Winter Wonderland’ Factory Covered In Asbestos Dust

Industrial Illness Experts Call On Former Factory Colleagues For Help


The devastated widow of a former Black Country lorry driver who died of an asbestos-related lung cancer just weeks after being diagnosed has launched an emotional appeal to his former colleague for help with an investigation as she seeks justice for her husband.

Heartbroken Brenda Peck has described how her husband Thomas was exposed to deadly asbestos dust on a daily basis when he worked as a lorry driver for insulation company J W Thompson based in Cradley Heath and carried asbestos materials to and from the factory.

At the time their young son Alan, who would visit the factory to see his Dad, likened the clouds of white lethal fibres to a ‘winter wonderland’, but tragically his wife now believes these conditions at the factory may be responsible for claiming Thomas’ life years later.

Mr Peck, who lived in Stourbridge in the West Midlands, was diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer caused by heavy exposure to asbestos, in September 2010. He died just weeks later on 22nd October, aged 76. An inquest held by the Black Country Coroner, Mr Robin Balmain, in July 2011 confirmed that he had died from an industrial disease.

Now, with the help of specialist asbestos lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, Thomas’ widow, Brenda, is hoping former colleagues who worked alongside her husband will be able to provide additional information about working conditions at the factory where he was exposed to lethal asbestos.

Thomas, who also had two grandchildren, worked as a lorry driver for J W Thompson for a total of eight years - between 1963 and 1969 and again in 1972 when he returned briefly to the firm. J W Thompson has since ceased trading.

He was responsible for loading his lorry with both raw and processed asbestos as he carried out his deliveries. He was also required to work in the factory cutting asbestos boards with a big circular saw, which created huge clouds of dust that escaped into the air and covered every surface with layers of deadly white dust.

Recalling working conditions at the factory in Cradley Heath, Mrs Peck said: “Tom would come home from work completely covered in asbestos dust. His overalls were particularly dusty on the days he was working in the warehouse. I used to have to shake and beat them before I could even attempt to wash them.

“Our son Alan used to visit the factory with Tom when he was a young lad and he would describe it as a ‘winter wonderland’. Little did we realise that what looked like an innocent, white landscape to him, was a lethal ticking time bomb that would ultimately cost the life of his father.

“Tom and I had been happily married for 53 years and to lose him as a result of a disease which was caused by conditions at work has been really difficult to cope with, particularly because it all happened so quickly.”

Iain Shoolbred, a workplace illness expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, is representing Mrs Peck. He said: “This is a tragic case, particularly considering how little time Mr Peck had after diagnosis. His family are still in shock that he is no longer with them.

“In the 1950s, 60’s and 70’s employers knew about the risks associated with asbestos and the dangers of inhaling the lethal fibres. As such they had a duty to protect their workers, but it seems Thomas was never provided with a face mask and would inhale asbestos dust on a daily basis.

“In order to gain justice for his family, we need to hear from other former J W Thompson workers who can provide us with additional information about working conditions there during the 1960s and 70s.”

Mrs Peck added: “Tom was a healthy man for his age and used to take our two dogs out two or three times a day walking about four miles each time. It was heartbreaking to see him unable to do the things he loved to do as his condition rapidly started to deteriorate.

“In the last months of his life, he was in a lot of pain and became so short of breath that he couldn’t get up the stairs to the bathroom. Although nothing will bring him back, I hope people will get in touch as any information could help gain justice for Tom.”

Anyone who can help with any information regarding working conditions at JW Thompson Ltd, Cradley Heath between 1963 and 1972 is asked to contact Iain Shoolbred at Irwin Mitchell on 0370 1500 100 or email iain.shoolbred@irwinmitchell.com.