A former teacher has died of mesothelioma through inhaling asbestos fibres in his classroom. Joe Gallager was passionate about woodwork and sharing his skills within the classroom.
Mr Gallagher’s widow, Maureen, said her husband was unaware the dust which swirled around his classroom was deadly.
She said “Joe used to tell me that the asbestos was flying around the room when he reached up to pull out the wood from the racking.
“At that time you were unaware of the dangers.
“People used to say there were safe versions of asbestos and unsafe types, but that is rubbish, there is no safe asbestos.”
Mrs Gallagher, from Shipley, said her husband began suffering health problems in 1998 when in his 50s.
As his condition deteriorated over the years, he was eventually diagnosed with the terminal cancer mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos.
Mr Gallagher’s inquest in Derby heard that he had already received a payout after developing the lung condition plural plaques in 1998.
The hearing was told that he and his wife moved to France in 2005 and while he was playing football with his grandson in April 2013 noticed he was becoming severely breathless.
Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner’s Court was told that a doctor examined him and diagnosed him with a second lung disease, mesothelioma.
The Gallaghers moved back to Derbyshire and Mr Gallagher was treated at the Royal Derby Hospital. The 70-year-old died at Ilkeston Community Hospital on September 3.
Mr Gallagher’s detailed work history was read out in court from a statement prepared by him before his death.
In it he said: “In or about April 1995 I was investigated for a chest infection, had a chest x-ray and was diagnosed with pleural plaques.
“I contacted a solicitor through my teaching union, the NASUWT, and received a settlement claim from Staffordshire County Council in 1998 as it was accepted that I was exposed to asbestos while working at Warslow Secondary School between 1973 and 1988.
“In April 2013 I began to develop further chest problems.
“At the time my wife and I had been living in France for six to seven years and I was examined by a local doctor.
“In July 2013, I suffered quite severe breathlessness while playing football with my grandson.
“Following a CT scan I was diagnosed with mesothelioma.”
Mr Gallagher’s extensive working history included spells working as a joiner in Chesterfield and Sheffield before he studied teaching and began working at Warslow, which is 10 miles north of Ashbourne.
A post-mortem examination on his body, undertaken in Ilkeston by Dr Markus Henn, gave the cause of death as mesothelioma.
Mrs Gallagher said, “Joe was always making things with wood. He made furniture, tables, wardrobes, he would do anything for anyone.
“He loved his grandchildren and the children he taught, always tasking them on school trips and helping them in the classroom.”
Paul McCandless, Assistant Coroner for Derby and South Derbyshire, praised the detailed work history provided by Mr Gallagher and his family.
He said: “Fundamentally from the outset to the end of the well-produced, interesting and accomplished working history provided in the statement by Mr Gallagher’s family and made during his lifetime it is clear that he was exposed to asbestos during his time working as a teacher.”
Chris Keates is the general secretary of the NASUWT, the teaching union that helped Mr Gallagher make the claim against Staffordshire County Council in 1998.
He said: “One teacher with mesothelioma is too many.
“Asbestos is a silent killer and every effort should be made to avoid these tragedies.
“This is why the NASUWT has been campaigning with other organisations to have a national plan to remove asbestos from all education workplaces to ensure that the school workforce and the children and young people that use these buildings are kept safe.”
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