The passage of time is always a key factor in the lives of countless numbers of people who, decades later, become victims of Britain’s widespread industrial use of asbestos as insulation and fireproofing. Anxious enquiries are regularly received at WESolicitors from men and women who believe they may have been in contact with asbestos at the place(s) where they worked as far back as the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

The ‘peak’ asbestos years from the 1940s to the late 1970s, when around 170,000 tons of asbestos were imported into the UK each year, were also likely to have left no work sector untouched, from product manufacturing, industrial processing and building/construction to power generation, shipbuilding, vehicle and railway assembly. Years later, former power plant, dockyard and railway workers, for example, can suddenly discover that their increasing breathlessness, coughing, fatigue or chest pains are not “part of natural aging” but actually asbestosis symptoms of late stage mesothelioma.

No protection for 25 years

It is now more generally well-known that a long period of time – between 15 to 50 years – can elapse from one or more initial periods of regular exposure and breathing in of fibre dust to the appearance of asbestos-related cancer symptoms. Naturally, to be told that life expectancy is to be cut short by a disease caused by exposure to asbestos decades earlier is devastating for the victim, their spouse and family.

In a recent case, a former British Rail worker began his employment in 1958 at the Crewe Railway Works as a labourer cleaning out the fitting pits lined with asbestos. From 1980 to retirement eight years later he was employed removing asbestos-lagged exhaust pipes. During the course of his entire 25 years at the railway works, as was common in many industries, no protective equipment such as breathing masks nor relevant asbestos health and safety information was provided.

Twenty five years after retirement, and following a sudden and rapid deterioration in breathing, hospital tests confirmed a diagnosis of the fatal, incurable mesothelioma cancer. Full responsibility was accepted by the former works employer and an out of court settlement for mesothelioma compensation was quickly awarded, bringing much needed financial security to the victim and his family in the time remaining.

British Rail compensation continues over last thirty years

Asbestosis claims against British Rail to compensate victims of exposure have continued over the last thirty years as a result of the use of the material in and around the various railway building works or depots including, Manchester, Swindon, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Wolverhampton, Bristol and York. British Rail began removing the deadly insulation from its depots and train coaches, and issuing protective clothing to workers as a result of the UK ban on the most dangerous blue and brown asbestos types from 1985 onwards,

Tragically, the history of asbestos use is still very much alive today. The total number of mesothelioma deaths has increased by nearly 11 per cent to more than 2,500 in 2012, largely due to an increase in male deaths aged 65 years or more, and is close to the peak limit expected towards the end of 2020.