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Former Shipyard Worker Seeks Answers After Lung Cancer Diagnosis Is Linked To Asbestos

Sunderland Man Appeals For Information Regarding Former Employers


James Clarke, Press Officer | +44 (0)161 838 3169

A former shipyard worker from Sunderland whose lung cancer diagnosis has been linked to asbestos exposure has joined with legal experts to call on his old workmates from several jobs to come forward and help him gain answers regarding his illness.

Charles Orr, 79, who is commonly known as Vernon, developed a strong cough in 2016 and after the problems persisted he sought medical advice from his GP. After tests and treatment, doctors then went on to suggest that the condition could be linked to contact with asbestos.

Following the news, Charles instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness and help him gain answers as to whether it may be linked to his working life.

As part of their ongoing work, the legal experts are now appealing for information from anyone who may be able to shed light on the conditions that Charles would have faced during his time working for:

  • Smiths Dock Co Ltd in North Shields from September 1955 to October 1960, as well as for a short spell in 1963
  • Middle Dock Co Ltd in South Shields from August 1965 to August 1982
  • A&P Ltd in Hebburn from 1989 up until his retirement in September 2004.

Roger Maddocks, the specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office who is acting for Charles, said: 

Expert Opinion
“This is yet another terrible case which highlights the impact that asbestos can have on lives, with our client developing lung cancer many years after his contact with the material is thought to have taken place.

“We are determined to help Charles get answers and justice regarding his illness and would be hugely grateful to anyone who could come forward to provide more information on these employers.

“Whether you worked directly alongside Charles or in other areas for the employers, any insight that could be provided may prove vital to our case.”
Roger Maddocks, Partner

Charles joined Smiths Dock Co Ltd as an apprentice fitter straight after leaving school in 1955 and was based in the fitting shop and engine room.

He has recalled to his legal team that his work would involve him working in close proximity to the laggers, who would strip off asbestos lagging from the pipework. This would cause dust to linger in the air, which would be inhaled by those working close to them, particularly in the engine room.

He recalled: “Pipes would be removed and brought to the shop, where I had to test or repair them. Quite often the pipes would still have lagging on them, but this would be removed by laggers working closely to us. Such activities would of course generate a huge amount of dust.

“I also worked a little on deck and would occasionally need to remove asbestos materials to access bolts on pipes, but most of my time was spent in the engine room. Again I would work close to laggers and a huge amount of dust would be created by their work. The whole atmosphere in the engine room was exceedingly dusty for most of the time.

“Dust was also created when the laggers would bag up their asbestos waste. There would be a visible cloud of dust around the top of the bag when they would do this.”

Charles undertook similar work for Middle Dock Co Ltd and once again when he joined A&P Ltd towards the end of the 1980s.

He added: “I was devastated to be diagnosed with lung cancer and to learn that it could be linked to my work history was absolutely shocking. It is very hard to take that I worked in a trade for so long and only really saw precautions introduced in my final few years.

“I just feel I deserve some answers and justice regarding this and would appreciate the help of anyone who can shed more light on the issue.”

Anyone with information which may assist with this case is asked to contact Rebecca Harron at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office on 0191 279 0095 or email rebecca.harron@irwinmitchell.com.

Read about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in asbestos-related disease cases.