British Rail has paid £78,000 in compensation to the widow of a former Swindon railway worker who died three years ago from undetected asbestos related cancer.
Cyril Matthews, of St Albans Close, Swindon worked for British Rail for 43 years as an electrical welder and coppersmith and for much of that period was continuously exposed to asbestos.
He retired in 1985, shortly before the works closed and for a number of years was in poor health although no asbestos disease was diagnosed. He died, aged 83 in August 2009.
His solicitor, Brigitte Chandler, a leading industrial disease lawyer and partner with Swindon law firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall, who has represented many hundreds of railway workers over the last 30 years, says that although Mr Matthews’ family was never aware he had asbestos disease, his wife, Hazel, was entitled to claim compensation because it was diagnosed through a post-mortem.
“Mr Matthews suffered from breathlessness for many years,” she said. “He could have been exposed to asbestos 70 years ago – it can take that long for the illness to develop.”
Mr Matthews worked at various locations within British Rail including the notorious AE workshop where locomotives were repaired. Asbestos sheets were broken by hand and used in welding and asbestos was widely used as lagging for boilers which Mr Matthews also had to disturb to fit new pipes and valves.
Brigitte Chandler added that it often happens that asbestosis is not diagnosed until a post-mortem. Railway workers and anyone exposed to asbestos need to be constantly vigilant – particularly if they start suffering from chest problems.
“Unfortunately the area where Mr Matthews worked was notorious for using large quantities of asbestos and there have been other deaths from employees working in the same area,” said Brigitte Chandler.
The Swindon and South West Asbestos Group is a regional charity which provides support groups and a free advice service to people suffering from asbestos disease and their families.
They now offer home visits to sufferers in the Swindon area to advise on benefits available.
For further information contact Brigitte Chandler on 01793-511055 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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