Pensioner appeals for former colleagues to help in asbestos fight

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Pensioner appeals for former colleagues to help in asbestos fight

29th September 2010

A Portsmouth man who developed asbestosis because of work he first did more than 60 years ago, has appealed to former colleagues to come forward and help in his fight for justice.

James Godfray was just a teenager when he was first exposed to asbestos in 1938, but he only began to suffer chest problems many years later. In June this year, Mr Godfray, now 87, was diagnosed with asbestosis related to pleural plaques - areas of thick scar tissue which form in the chest lining and diaphragm as a result of asbestos exposure - and fibrosis.

Edmund Young, an industrial disease specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said Mr Godfray began his career as a 14-year-old apprentice with local employer Frank J Privett. Qualifying as a carpenter and joiner in 1945, Mr Godfray was initially based in Grove Road, Southsea before the company moved to Stubbington Avenue, Portsmouth and then Horndean, just outside the city.

During his apprenticeship, Mr Godfray - together with a colleague who has since died from asbestosis - would fit 'asbestos-replacement' boards to ceilings at a number of sites including Brickwoods Brewery and a large Catholic school in Barnham.

"These boards were introduced as an alternative to using asbestos," said Mr Young. "James and his colleagues would cut the boards to size using a saw, creating substantial amounts of dust that he can remember being everywhere - in the air, his hair and clothes, and all over the surrounding furniture.

"Although James and many others using it at the time believed the boards to be harmless, it became clear that the product was up to 50 per cent asbestos, and so he was being exposed on a daily basis without any knowledge."

Mr Young said at no time was Mr Godfray ever warned about the risks in relation to asbestos exposure and neither face-masks, or ventilation measures were ever introduced.

"James cut up to twenty boards at a time, every day for up to nine years," said Mr Young. "From 1954 he carried out similar work once a week, before being transferred to Portsmouth Dockyard where he worked in two office buildings known as 'COB1' and 'COB2,' built by Croads Builders and Privett's."

Working with two colleagues in an enclosed environment with no ventilation or extraction measures, Mr Godfray was tasked with removing asbestos from beneath office window sills, using a vacuum cleaner that would frequently blow asbestos dust over staff working nearby at their desks.

Mr Young said he is now hoping former colleagues, people previously employed by Frank J Privett - or anyone who has made or knows of others who have made similar claims against Frank J Privett - will be able to offer information and confirm the details of Mr Godfray's case to help in his fight for compensation.

"It can take up to sixty years after exposure to asbestos before any related diseases become apparent," said Mr Young. "This can make finding witnesses and information in regard to previous employers incredibly difficult. Unless we can locate Frank J Privett's insurers and prove that James was exposed to asbestos from his time with the company, he may go uncompensated for the fact that he has developed this dreadful illness."

Can you help?
If you remember working alongside James Godfray, if you worked for any of Frank J Privett's timber businesses in Hazlemere or workshops in Grove Road, Southsea, Stubbington Avenue and Horndean in Portsmouth, or you have made or know of others who have made similar claims against the company, please call Edmund Young on 0207 092 2858 or e-mail