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Former Electrician And Labourer Appeals For His Ex Colleagues To Help Investigation

Granddad-Of-Three Suffering From Mesothelioma Looks For Answers About Asbestos Exposure


By Suzanne Rutter

A former labourer and electrician coming to terms with the devastating news he is suffering from an incurable asbestos-related cancer, is appealing for his ex-colleagues to help expert lawyers investigate where he was exposed to the deadly dust.

Jeffrey Darwin, of Haswell Plough in County Durham, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure, in April 2013 following tests at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

He believes he came into contact with asbestos while working at Hargreaves Brick Works at Shotton Colliery, for the National Coal Board at the Shotton and Horden Collieries, W R Gibbs Limited, Mono Containers Limited of Gilesgate, N G Bailey & Co Limited, British Titan Products / Tioxide Limited and Durham City Council Waste Disposal.

The 64-year-old has now instructed specialist industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who are hoping his ex work mates can help piece together where he was exposed to asbestos and whether anything more could have been done to protect him.

Isobel Lovett, an industrial disease expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office representing Jeffrey and his wife Margaret, who he has been with for 44 years, said: “Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer which causes so much distress for victims like Jeffrey, who worked in industries where we believe asbestos was regularly used.

“Sadly, many employers did not do enough to manage the risks of asbestos exposure despite knowing how dangerous it is. It is only right that those people affected by exposure to asbestos through no fault of their own are entitled to justice from their former employers.

“We hope to speak to as many of Jeffrey’s ex colleagues as possible so that we can piece together exactly where he was exposed to asbestos and identify where more should have been done by his employers to protect him from its harmful effects.”

Jeffrey worked for Hargreaves Brick Works at the Shotton Colliery as a labourer between August and December 1963 and he was responsible for wheeling barrows of bricks around the factory for ‘setters’ to finish off the drying process. He progressed to become a ‘setter’ himself and his job as a ‘setter’ entailed working alongside industrial-sized kilns which he believes may have been lined with asbestos.

From December 1963 to March 1973 he worked for the National Coal Board, again at Shotton Colliery, where he initially worked as a labourer stacking timber and sand bags in the yards in preparation for work to be carried out underground. Between January and April 1964 he completed his underground training at Horden Colliery before he went back to work at the timber yard at Shotton Colliery as an apprentice electrician.

As an apprentice electrician, Jeffrey recalls coming into contact with asbestos while working in the boiler house where he remembers the pipe work being lagged with asbestos. Once he qualified as an electrician, he also recalls coming into contact with asbestos when maintaining the switch gear as the electrical boards, contractors and fuse boards had asbestos cloth in them to stop splatters.

Between March and December 1973, Jeffrey worked as an electrician for W R Gibbs Limited in Peterlee, which made electrical components. He recalls coming into contact with heat resistant materials which he believed contained asbestos dust.

When he left W R Gibbs Ltd, he went to work as an electrician and later, a shift supervisor, at Mono Containers plastics factory in Durham, between December 1973 and January 1977. His job entailed repairing and maintaining the machinery which often involved wrapping wires with special tape which he believes was made from asbestos.

His next role, between February 1977 and January 1978, involved working as an electrician at N G Bailey, which was based in the Midlands, where he was contracted to work at the Monsanto chemical plant at Seal Sands. Jeffrey recalls working in close proximity to other labourers who cut large asbestos sheets to size using handsaws, creating a dirty and dusty working environment.

He left N G Bailey to work as a maintenance electrician for British Titan Products, which was also known as Tioxide Limited, at Greatham Works near Seal Sands between May and November 1978. He recalls regularly being exposed to chemicals at the plant, which may have been insulated with asbestos.

In 1982 he began working for Durham City Council Waste Disposal, which was privatised in 1997 and renamed the Durham Waste Management Company Limited. Jeffrey was employed as a control room operator until 1997 and his job entailed controlling the conveyor belts which transported the rubbish between the different areas of the factory and his team was responsible for extracting any asbestos from general waste and disposing of it properly.

Jeffrey, who has two sons and three grandchildren, first started to show the symptoms of mesothelioma two years ago when he lost a lot of weight and began to suffer from chest and back pains and breathlessness.

He had fluid drained from his lungs at Dryburn Hospital in Durham and further tests and scans in March this year confirmed he was suffering from mesothelioma.

He said: “The mesothelioma diagnosis came as a shock to the whole family; we are still devastated about the news but are trying to come to terms with it as best we can. I’m in constant pain, I’ve lost three stone in weight and I’m struggling to sleep properly.

“I’ve also been a keen fisherman all my life and I’ve even fished competitively in the past but my condition means I can’t lift and cast my rod now and I really miss this part of my life. I can’t help my son at his allotment any more or spend as much quality time with my grandchildren.

“I just hope my ex work mates can help my legal team to investigate where I was exposed to asbestos so that I can finally get the answers I need.”

Anyone who has information should contact Isobel Lovett at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office on 0191 279 0104 or email isobel.lovett@irwinmitchell.com.

For more information about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Mesothelioma.