Posted by Jennifer Seavor, Senior Associate
The family of former Swindon Railway Works employee receive six figure sum in compensation for mesothelioma
In June 2017, Jennifer Seavor, a Senior Associate in our Industrial Disease team and specialist mesothelioma and asbestos disease solicitor, was instructed by Peter Heavens.
Sadly, Peter had just been diagnosed with mesothelioma, at the age of 88. Following his diagnosis his family made enquiries online and found reference to the Swindon and Wiltshire Asbestos Support Group and made contact with us. Jennifer attended Peter at home in the presence of his wife Fiona and daughters, Dawn and Jackie.
Peter told Jennifer that he was born in Swindon in 1928 and had grown up in the town. At the age of 18 he took his first job as an apprentice fitter and turner with the Great Western Railway at Swindon Carriage Works.
Peter told Jennifer that as asbestos was widely used in the manufacture of railway carriages and various train components he believed he had been exposed to asbestos during that time. He could remember asbestos being mixed into a paste to form a lagging and that being applied to pipe work in steam trains. He also remembered that the train carriages were insulated with sprayed asbestos and asbestos sheeting.
During that time Peter spent a lot of time in the stamping shop. His job involved stripping down hammers and presses and undertaking maintenance and repair work. The presses were steam operated and therefore had associated pipe work which was also lagged with asbestos lagging. Peter regularly had to undertake maintenance work which meant removing lagging from the pipes.
He described to Jennifer what an awfully dusty environment it was. There was no health and safety in those days and breathing protection was not provided. There was no kind of ventilation and therefore Peter and his colleagues inevitably breathed in the deadly asbestos dust.
He completed his apprenticeship in 1949/50 and then undertook National Service. However he returned to the Swindon Railway Works in 1952 this time at the Locomotive Works where he continued to be exposed to asbestos due to the fitting, erecting and boiler making going on at the works at the time. At the time the locomotives were still steam driven and again asbestos was used for lagging the pipe work. Peter continued to have to strip down asbestos lagging from locomotives that needed to be repaired.
Jennifer said “It was awful to hear about the working environment at the Swindon Railway Works from Peter. Whilst I have represented many men over the years that have been exposed to asbestos at the works, it never fails to shock me to hear about the working environment and how so many men were exposed to asbestos and their lives put in danger. Peter told me that he knew many other men who had worked with him and died from asbestos related diseases. He thought he had been one of the lucky ones but was also sadly diagnosed with the disease late in life.”
Peter left the Railway Works in 1960 and didn’t have any further exposure to asbestos in his subsequent working life, much of which was spent with London Transport where he eventually worked with the Quality Assurance department.
Peter and his family were devastated to hear about his diagnosis in May 2017. He began to experience shortness of breath just prior to Christmas 2016. He was referred to the Great Western Hospital for a chest x-ray and a scan and it was noted that he had developed a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in his lung as well as pneumonia. It was as a result of these investigations that it was noted that he had also developed mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, no treatment was available to Peter. His condition gradually became worse and sadly he lost his battle in October 2017.
Jennifer said “Peter was a wonderful man. He had spent much of his life in Swindon and worked so very hard. He was dedicated to his wife Fiona and daughters Dawn and Jackie. He also had grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was such an important and treasured member of the local community in Old Town where he lived.”
Peter’s claim settled following his death in February 2018. Jennifer was however able to obtain an admission of liability from the Department for Transport which now deals with claims against Great Western Railway/British Rail, during Peter’s lifetime. He therefore knew that Fiona’s security was assured. Importantly, Jennifer was also able to assist Peter with obtaining access to government benefits and an interim payment of compensation during his lifetime to assist him. Peter will be very missed by his family and many friends in Swindon.
If you or a member of your family has ben affected by asbestos please telephone Jennifer Seavor for advice
01225 459991 Email us