Devastated Wife Of Electrician Who Died From Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Battles For Justice
By Suzanne Rutter
The devastated wife of a former electrician who died after suffering from lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure is appealing for her husband’s ex colleagues to come forward with information about the working conditions he endured.
Paul Richard Smith, of Fenham in Newcastle, died aged 68 in August 2012 after a 7 month battle with lung cancer, which he believed was contracted more than four decades ago during his career.
With the help of specialist industrial illness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, Paul’s wife Margaret is now seeking people who worked with her husband at North East firms Reid Fernes & Co Ltd, Fletcher Bros and Holliday Hall & Co Ltd to help with her battle for answers about how and when he was exposed to the deadly dust.
Isobel Lovett, an industrial illness expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office representing Margaret, said: “Asbestos-related diseases are debilitating conditions which can have a devastating impact on the lives of victims and their families. Unfortunately we see too many cases like this where electricians and other workmen and women have come into direct contact with the deadly dust without any protection or warnings from their employers about how detrimental it could be to their health.
“We hope Paul’s ex work mates come forward with information about the working conditions at Reid Fernes Co Ltd, Fletcher Bros and Holliday Hall & Co Ltd so that we can finally get Margaret the justice she deserves in her husband’s memory.”
The father-of-two and grandfather of three completed his six-year apprenticeship at Reid Fernes & Co Ltd, based in Orchard Street, Newcastle, from 1959 to 1965. Before his death he recalled working at Pit Head Baths and at various collieries across the North East. He also worked in the workshops at the Swan Hunter shipyard, where he was responsible for installing electrical cables. It was well known that asbestos was widely used at the shipyard and onboard the ships.
Between 1965 and 1975 Paul was employed by Fletcher Bros as an electrician and spent most of his time installing electrical cables at new or revamped Marks and Spencer stores in Newcastle, Leeds, Dewsbury, York and Harrogate. He returned to Fletcher Bros on various occasions between 1975 and 1985.
His job entailed drilling through asbestos ceiling tiles to secure light fittings. He also worked directly alongside the ceiling fitters who would saw through the asbestos tiles before fitting them into place.
In 1976 he went to work for Holliday Hall & Co Ltd at Seal Sands in Teesside where he was responsible for running electricity cables into 100-foot, industrial silos. He worked directly alongside other labourers who covered the pipe work in the silos with asbestos. He recalled the laggers sawing the pre-formed asbestos insulation into strips before mixing large vats of asbestos powder into a paste to secure them.
Paul first started to show the symptoms of lung cancer in January 2012 and following tests and scans at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, doctors found a tumour on his lung. Doctors then gave Paul and his family the devastating news that he had less than a year to live and he died in August 2012.
Margaret said his death was a tragic blow for all the family. She said: “Paul was such a hard worker and although he enjoyed being an electrician it was a dirty and dusty job. He worked away from home a lot but he often described how mucky his jobs were and how it was impossible for him to not breathe in the asbestos dust, particularly as he was never given a mask to protect him from the worst of it.
“Paul and I had been happily married for 45 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.
“I hope that his ex work mates can help Irwin Mitchell investigate the working conditions he endured so that we can hold his employers to account and get Paul the justice he deserves.”
Anyone with information about the working conditions at Reid Fernes & Co Ltd, Fletcher Bros and Holliday Hall & Co Ltd should contact Isobel Lovett at Irwin Mitchell on 0191 2790104 or email Isobel.Lovett@IrwinMitchell.com.
Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise related to Lung Cancer Claims.