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Bath electrician wins asbestos payout after work across South West

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 05, 2014

Asbestos was used in all manners of industrial environments, and heavily in the lagging of steam engine boilers at Swindon. Picture: STEAM museum Swindon

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A pensioner who worked as an electrician on a host of the post-war construction projects in the South West has won a claim against the firm that employed him after he developed a lung disease years later.

Richard Garnow, from Oldfield Park in Bath, worked on the wiring everywhere from Berkeley Power Station to Frenchay Hospital, but his employers, N G Bailey Ltd, did not do enough to protect him from exposure to asbestos, even though its dangers were known about at the time.

The list of places where he worked includes Bristol Aerospace, Bristol Royal Infirmary, St Mary's Hospital, Bristol Eye Hospital, Bristol Dental Hospital and the MoD sites at Ensley and Foxhill in Bath, and the School of Infantry at Warminster, as well as Government buildings including the Stationery Office in Clifton, Bath's Gaunts House and the Flowers Hill Government building in Bristol.

But in 2009, the pensioner from Oldfield Park developed a cough and began to have trouble walking – and was found to have developed a condition known as diffuse pleural thickening, one of the first signs of what could develop into the lung disease mesothelioma. The out-of-court settlement agreed with his former employer allows him to claim again if he develops that disease.

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Mesothelioma is known grimly as "The Swindon Disease" as so many of the town's pensioners have developed the debilitating and ultimately fatal cancer from exposure to asbestos while working at the rail works in the decades after the war.

Health chiefs in the town have long warned they are expecting a spike in cases in the second half of this decade, and are beginning to report that deaths are rising.

The town is home to one of the UK's leading industrial disease lawyers, who has fought to win compensation for the workers, Brigitte Chandler. She said Mr Garnow's case showed that it was not only Swindon Rail Works employees who were exposed to asbestos. The Bath man worked close to boilers, pipes and ducts lagged with asbestos and also installed electrical cable. He had to drill holes into walls and ceilings made from asbestos boards.

"Many public buildings contained asbestos in the past and maintenance staff such as electricians would have been regularly been exposed to asbestos when working in these areas," she said.

"Sadly, the number of people dying from mesothelioma and lung cancer continues to increase due to the widespread use of asbestos in the 1950s, 60s and 70s," she added.

"Anybody who has worked around asbestos in the past should seek medical advice."

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