Plumber Appeals for Info after Terminal Asbestos Cancer Diagnosis

13th June 2019

Alec Evans, a terminally ill former plumber is appealing to his ex-colleagues for information after being diagnosed with a terminal, asbestos-related cancer.

If anyone has any information regarding the working conditions and usage of asbestos materials at Cammell Laird Shipyard in the late 1950s and the 1960s, Vickers Shipbuilding or Mitchell Engineering in the 1950s-1970s, Stewards & Lloyds in the 1960s or Johnson Control Systems in the 1960s to the 1980s, to please come forward and call Antony Waddington of Simpson Millar on 0345 3579 338 or freephone 08002605010 or by using the contact form below.

Alec Evans, 79, was given the devastating Mesothelioma diagnosis in October 2018, after seeking medical help from his GP having suffered from a shortness of breath and a cough.

After a chest X-ray revealed fluid on his lungs, he was sent to have a drain inserted, and the fluid that was removed was tested and confirmed Mesothelioma.

Currently living at home with his wife in Paignton, Devon, Mr Evans has been instructed by Industrial Disease Solicitors at Simpson Millar to investigate his employment history, amidst concerns that he was exposed to asbestos fibres whilst working for a range of companies across the UK.

These included Cammell Laird Shipyard (now known as VSEL) in Birkenhead, Vickers Shipbuilding (now known as BAE systems) and Mitchell Engineering in Cumbria, Stewards & Lloyds (now known as British Steel) at Llanwern Steelworks in Wales and Johnson Control Systems in Birmingham.

Mr Evans left school at the age of 15 and moved to Merseyside in 1955. He worked as an apprentice plumber at Cammell Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead between 1956 and 1958, working in both the fabrication shop and installing pipework on new and old ships alongside other tradesmen, including Laggers.

According to Mr Evans, these ships tended to be very dusty environments to work in, and he would generally be crawling around pipework or fixing new pipework in confined spaces, where there would be dust all around and on the pipes.

He could often see visible dust in the air and would have to rip out asbestos lagged pipework in order to install new ones.

Mr Evans and his family moved to Cumbria in 1958, and between 1958 and 1962 he was an apprentice plumber at the Vickers Armstrong Shipyard.

He worked mainly on a liner called ‘Oriana’, fabricating and installing new pipework on the ship. Mr Evans said that they often used asbestos spray extensively around the ship to make it fire retardant and that it was a very dusty environment as the spray created a huge fog of dust.

He commented, “The air was often thick with asbestos dust clouds. It was all around me, in my hair, on my clothing, on the floor.”

From 1962 to 1964, Mr Evans also worked for Mitchell Engineering at Windscale, which is now part of the Sellafield Nuclear Site. In his role installing pipework at the plant, he would often work alongside laggers, who would use large sectional asbestos lagging on the pipes.

“I was exposed to the dust when the laggers were cutting and installing the lagging, which they would do in the area I was working in, just a few feet away from me” Mr Evans said.

He continued, “The cutting of the sectional asbestos created an awful lot of fine dust in the workspace and air. It would then settle on the pipes and floor, only to be disturbed as we worked.

“The whole of that plant was very dusty from the white asbestos – the dust was visible in the air.”

Mr Evans started working for Stewards & Lloyds in 1962, where he was sent to work at the Llanwern Steelworks in Wales as a pipe fitter and welder.

He fitted large 10-inch pipes to the boiler face, and once they were fitted they would be lagged with asbestos. The laggers would work behind him as he installed the pipework, and sometimes even overhead.

“I remember that they were using huge sections of asbestos lagging and cutting it with a knife to the correct size to fit around the pipes. The cutting of the sectional asbestos created an awful lot of fine dust in the workspace and air” Mr Evans commented.

Mr Evans then started working for Johnson Control Systems in Birmingham as a Construction Supervisor in 1969, where he undertook contracts in hospitals, office blocks, car plants, and retail stores such as M&S and BHS.

Mr Evans said, “To install our systems I would often have to put my head and shoulders in the roof space above the level of ceiling tiles – when I removed the ceiling tiles, dust would rain down on me, getting in my hair and my face.

“I also remember asbestos ceiling tiles at M&S and they had three or four extensions in the Birmingham and Solihull branches that we worked on.”

Mr Evans claims he was never provided with any training about the dangers of the asbestos at any of the companies, and he wasn’t provided with any respiratory protection to protect him, or other workers, from breathing in the dust.

He said, “I was having fluid drained from my lung three times per week by a District Nurse who came to my house. I tried Chemotherapy and had two cycles to try and slow the progress of the disease down, but unfortunately, these have not worked, and I have been advised that I will just receive palliative care now.

“I am worried for my wife as I know my condition is terminal, and I worry about how she will cope when I am no longer here. We want answers as to why I was never warned of the dangers, and why I was never protected from asbestos exposure.”

Simpson Millar’s Industrial Disease Solicitors who specialise in asbestos claims are now appealing on behalf of Mr Evans for anyone else who worked for Cammell Laird Shipyard, Vickers Shipbuilding, Mitchell Engineering, Stewards & Lloyds or Johnson Control Systems to contact Simpson Millar.

Industrial Disease Solicitor Anthony Waddington from Simpson Millar said, “This is a devastating diagnosis for Mr Evans. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, and we are now working hard to try to gather as much information as possible to ensure that he receives the answers he rightly deserves with regards how and when he was exposed to asbestos, as well as why more was not done to protect him from its harmful consequences.”

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