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Mansfield man exposed to asbestos appeals for help
A Mansfield man who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos more than five decades ago has appealed to former colleagues to come forward and help in his fight for justice.
David Martin, 68, was diagnosed with the disease in January 2012 - more than 50 years after he started a five-year apprenticeship as a joiner when he left school at the age of 15.
Lesley Francois, an industrial disease specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that in October 2011, Mr Martin, of Abbott Road, developed a persistent dry cough which refused to settle. “Two months later, he suffered breathlessness whilst out walking in Derbyshire with his wife Margaret,” said Mrs Francois, a solicitor with the firm. “After visiting his GP, he was referred to Kings Mill Hospital where x-rays and a CT scan revealed that both his lungs had thickened and were filled with fluid. In January, a biopsy confirmed Mr Martin had developed mesothelioma, a particularly aggressive cancer of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.”
From leaving school, Mr Martin began working for a construction and engineering company named Harold Ashley & Son Ltd, based at Church Hill in Mansfield Woodhouse, Mansfield. “They built schools and other public buildings such as health centres, fire and ambulance buildings, libraries and structures for the Ministry of Defence,” said Mr Martin. “They specialised in the construction of permanent, prefabricated and easily constructed buildings, known as ‘CLASP systems.’ From the 1950s onwards, asbestos materials were used extensively throughout these buildings - within boiler houses, ceilings, wall and floor tiles as well as around pipe work and heating systems.
“My job initially involved fixing doorframes, cupboards and skirting boards, working alongside laggers who would mix an asbestos paste in large tubs before coating the material onto pipe work within the boiler houses,” he added. “The space inside the boiler houses was extremely limited and I can remember how both the clothes the laggers wore as well as the air we breathed in each day was always thick with asbestos dust.”
After qualifying as a joiner in 1964, Mr Martin remained at Harold Ashley & Son Ltd until 1974, during which time the company was contracted to work on a number of sites including West Notts Technical College, The Sutton and Ashfield Fire and Ambulance Station, Chilwell Ordinance Depot and Tupton Hall School in Derbyshire.
“I was frequently exposed to asbestos in all these places as my job involved cutting, sanding down and installing Asbestolux sheets, boards and ceiling tiles,” said Mr Martin. “It was always extremely dusty and because there was never any ventilation, the air we breathed was always full of asbestos fibres. No-one ever warned us about the dangers of asbestos and I remember being told that Asbestolux was completely safe to work with.
“We were never provided with proper face masks like they have now, except for once when I was given a metal frame mask which was completely inadequate and provided no protection whatsoever,” he added. “In addition, we were never provided with any kind of protective clothing, so every time I went home, I was always coated in asbestos.”
After leaving Harold Ashley & Son Ltd in 1974, Mr Martin worked at Kirk Hallam Community Technology and Sports College in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, from 1976 until 1995 as a technology teacher, and again from 1997 to 2011 as a part-time school technician. The school was made up of a number of CLASP buildings and asbestos was found throughout the walls and window panels as well as within the floor and ceiling tiles, boiler house, changing rooms, showers and toilets.
“I used to replace doors, ceiling tiles and locks as well as any other maintenance work that cropped up,” he added. “Despite all the safety measures in place, I believe I still could have been exposed to and inhaled asbestos fibres that were released into the air from damaged or deteriorating asbestos materials contained within the walls, floors and ceilings simply as a result of general wear and tear throughout the school.”
Mrs Francois, who is representing Mr Martin, explained that in order to secure him the compensation to which he is entitled, it was vital that witnesses come forward to confirm that he was exposed to asbestos during his time at either Harold Ashley & Son Ltd or Kirk Hallam Community Technology and Sports College, and to help identify both the firm’s and the school’s former insurers.
“It can take several decades after someone is exposed to asbestos for any related symptoms to become apparent, which can make finding witnesses and information regarding former insurers extremely difficult to obtain,” said Mrs Francois. “In regard to Harold Ashley & Son Ltd, which ceased trading in 1974, the problem we now face is tracing David’s former colleagues as well as the insurers of the company at the time he worked there and was exposed to asbestos.
“We are particularly keen to track down anyone who worked in the administrative side of the firm at Portland Street, Mansfield Woodhouse, Mansfield or anyone who might remember which company provided insurance for the firm around that time,” she added. “David finished chemotherapy in September and he is due to be reviewed in January. Unless we can track down the insurers and prove that he was exposed to asbestos, he may go uncompensated for the terrible condition he has developed as a result of simply working diligently to support his family throughout his life.”
Can you help?
If you remember working alongside David Martin, if you worked for Harold Ashley & Son Ltd, based at Church Hill, Mansfield Woodhouse, Mansfield between 1959 and 1974, or if you worked at Kirk Hallam Community Technology and Sports College in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, from 1976 until 2011, or think you can help in any way, please contact Lesley Francois on 0844 893 6685 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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