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Home » Latest News » Why are Trawlermen being diagnosed with Asbestos Disease?

Why are Trawlermen being diagnosed with Asbestos Disease?

Why are Trawlermen being diagnosed with Asbestos Disease?

The problems caused by working with asbestos, are much more widely known about than they were even a decade ago.

The problems caused by working with asbestos, are much more widely known about than they were even a decade ago. It’s fair to say that most people who watch the news or read the papers, will have seen, or read about, the sad stories of former asbestos workers who are diagnosed with asbestos disease in the later years of their lives.
 
In the past 12 months, there has been a spate of stories about asbestos still being present in many of our buildings. In particular, there has been a focus on the amount of asbestos that is present in many of our schools. We wrote about the problem in an article for the Bridge McFarland LLP website in November 2018 and asked the question – What are the Risks for Staff and Children of Getting the (asbestos) Disease?
 
How do most asbestos-related deaths occur?
Whilst there are some inherent dangers from the asbestos that has been left intact in buildings, most deaths from mesothelioma (a form of cancer caused solely by exposure to asbestos), asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis, have been suffered by those who worked in industries where asbestos was widely used. Sad to say, that new cases of asbestos disease are still being diagnosed every day.
 
Why was asbestos so widely used?
The reason that asbestos was such a popular material in so many industries was because it was;
·        Cheap
·        Strong
·        Flexible
·        Heat-resistant
 
As a result, it was used as pipe insulation, in brake linings, gaskets, thermal insulation products, building materials – the list goes on and on. It had many uses.
 
What type of workers were most at risk of getting asbestos disease?
 Those most at risk of developing asbestos disease were those who worked in jobs where they regularly inhaled asbestos dust and fibres. Some of the most at-risk occupations include;
1.      Railway engineering workers
2.      Dockyard/shipyard workers
3.      Power station workers
4.      Firemen
5.      Carpenters
6.      Plumbers
7.      Electricians
8.      Boilermakers
9.      Construction workers
10.  Manufacturing industry workers
 
Asbestos disease and trawlermen
Incidences of asbestos disease among trawlermen might never have made national news when compared to some of the industries mentioned above. Nevertheless, it is a fact that trawlermen who sailed on the fishing boats out of Grimsby, Hull, Whitby and Hartlepool, worked onboard boats that were full of asbestos. At Bridge McFarland LLP we have for several years, been acting for the families of former trawlermen, who either currently have an asbestos disease or have died from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
 
How did trawlermen get exposed to asbestos?
We have spoken with both clients and witnesses who worked on the trawlers between the late 1950s and the 1980s. They have told us that asbestos was all around them on the ships. Due to its heat resistant properties, asbestos was used to lag the on-board pipes, meaning that it was present in the boiler rooms, in the alleyways, in dry rooms and on the winches. Other witnesses with whom we have spoken, have remarked that pipes, lagged with asbestos, travelled just inches over their heads, as they slept in their bunk beds. 
 
Pipework constantly needed re-lagging. The work required to do this put those trawlermen working on the job at risk of heavy asbestos exposure. Others working in the vicinity would also be at risk. The confined nature of the boats they lived and worked on meant that there was little escape from the deadly fibres. 
 
Asbestos is at its most dangerous when it is worked on. Ripping asbestos, cutting it or drilling it, releases asbestos particles into the air. When these are inhaled, they settle on the inner linings of the lungs and are difficult to expel from them. Most dangerous, are the barbed fibres of blue asbestos, more formally known as crocidolite. 
 
The build-up of fibres in the lungs, over time, causes the disease to develop. However, one of the tragic quirks of asbestos disease is that it can take years and years – between on average 10 and 50 – from exposure to asbestos disease diagnosis. That is the reason that most of the clients that come to us having recently been diagnosed with asbestos disease are gentlemen in their late 60s, 70s or 80s.
 
Who was to blame for trawlermen getting asbestos disease? 
Like most other workers who were exposed to asbestos before it was finally banned, trawlermen received no form of protection from exposure to asbestos in the form of face masks. Neither were they warned by their employers of the dangers of working with asbestos. This failure to protect or warn employees constituted negligence on the part of the employer and in turn, opened the door for former employees to sue the companies that they worked for and whose negligence put them at risk of exposure.
 
What if the trawler company no longer exists?
There is every likelihood that the company that employed the trawlermen will no longer be in existence. However, if the insurers of that company can be traced, it is still possible, in most cases, to make a claim for asbestos disease compensation, even after so many years have passed. Bridge McFarland LLP’s previous experience of working on behalf of trawlermen who have developed asbestos disease, means that they have built up records of the insurance companies of many of the companies that employed trawlermen out of the east coast fishing ports.
 
How long have I got to make a claim for asbestos disease compensation?
The general rule is that you must start an asbestos disease claim within 3 years of being diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness. Sometimes it will not become apparent that someone was suffering from, or died from, an asbestos disease, until after their death and an inquest has been held. In other cases, it may have been known prior to a person’s death that they were suffering from asbestos disease but there was no time to start a claim.
 
In both these instances, a claim may still be made. However, it is advisable to contact a solicitor as soon as possible to get proper advice. 
 
The fishing industry – the most dangerous of them all
The working conditions for trawlermen have always been amongst the toughest for any workers in any industry. 
 
An article in the BMJ Journal titled, ‘Occupational Mortality in British Commercial Fishing, 1975-1976’ published the stark fact that the risk of a fatal accident amongst fishermen was 52.4 times higher than for the general workforce of Britain. Of course, these statistics bear no relevance to the numbers of trawlermen who have gone on to die from asbestos disease. It is though, tragically coincidental that in an industry that was as openly brutal as commercial fishing, not only were people dying from going overboard or as a result of groundings, or other awful, fatal on-board accidents,  others were being exposed to a mineral that would eventually lead to their deaths or serious illness, albeit many years down the line.
 
The author of this article, James Burrell is an experienced asbestos disease solicitor. He is a partner with Bridge McFarland LLP based in their Hull office. He is a Legal 500 recommended lawyer and is an expert in asbestos disease law compensation claims. James regularly travels all over the country to visit his clients. He is almost always able to carry out asbestos disease claims work under a No Win, No Fee arrangement. He does not charge his asbestos-related disease clients a success fee. 
 
James can be contacted on 01482 320620 or by email at info@bmcf.co.uk. Alternatively, you can contact him via our website.