Engineer who survived Blitz and served in WWII develops mesothelioma

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Engineer who survived Blitz and served in WWII develops mesothelioma

23rd August 2012

A 90-year-old who survived the London of the Blitz and later served as a wartime officer in the Royal Navy, developed a painful cancer after being exposed to asbestos in the years after his military service.

Lesley Mynett, a specialist industrial disease lawyer with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that the man had served as a minesweeper, on US-built frigates in general service and later in the Fleet Air Arm of the Navy, before beginning work as an engineer in the private sector in 1946. From 1948 to March 1954, he was employed as an assistant engineer by the Central Electricity Authority, which later became the Central Electricity Generating Board.

“It was during his time working for CEA that he was exposed to asbestos,” said Lesley, a partner with the firm. “My client was working as an engineer at a newly- commissioned power station on a Greenfield site and was appointed with two junior engineers to test, commission, and put into service all the plant’s electrical equipment.

“When he first arrived at the power station it was a half-built brick building with a stack at one end,” she said. “My client told me that one boiler was already in place but contractors were on site building the remaining boilers in the boiler houses - work which included installing all of the pipe work and the lagging of that pipe work.”

Lesley said her client described the method these laggers were using as the ‘plastering’ method. “He said they didn’t use spraying equipment to apply the lagging, but asbestos would be emptied into large vats, mixed and then applied to the pipe-work and the boilers as if they were applying plaster to a wall,” she said. “There were a total of six boilers at the site, each about 90 feet tall, and four of those were built during my client’s time there.”

Lesley said that her client’s work would take him into the boiler house frequently, regularly and for prolonged periods each day. “There were electrical fittings in all areas of the boiler house,” she said, “and he was required to be in there fitting, maintaining and testing that equipment. As a result of working alongside the laggers, he was regularly exposed to asbestos that was being mixed and applied to the pipe work and boilers.”

Lesley said her client remembered a constant thick layer of dust being on the floor of the boiler house. “He remembered regularly walking through the dust and making foot tracks in the asbestos dust and fibres across the length of the boiler houses,” she said. “He described it as similar to walking on and through powder snow. Heestimated there was almost an inch of dust covering his shoes, socks and trousers at the end of each shift.”

After developing a persistent cough in late 2009, Lesley said her client began to notice problems with his voice and throat. “He made several visits to his doctor and was referred for x-rays and tests,” she said. “His breathing problems became more acute and distressing, and just weeks later he was admitted to hospital for emergency surgery to remove a litre and a half of fluid from his lungs. The following month, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

“Needless to say my client and his wife were devastated by the diagnosis,” said Lesley. “My client had survived being a student in London during the Blitz, serving in the navy during World War II and yet it was his employers’ breach of care during his work as an engineer that led to his developing this cruel disease.”

Following the client’s death during the course of the case, Lesley secured a settlement of £164,605 on behalf of his family.

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of industrial diseases including mesothelioma.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.