South Wales Family Fight for Answer Following Death of ‘Loving mum’

Date:
02/08/2022

Inquest found that former telephone operator died from exposure to asbestos.

The heartbroken family of a Newport woman who died from the asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma, have issued a appeal for witnesses to come forward in a bid to better understand when and how she came into contact with the deadly material.

Kay Harper (formerly Rose) from Cwmcam was just 65 when she passed away in July 2020 at St David’s Hospice.

Kay was a retired factory operative who had spent much of her working life in a factory on the Chapel Farm Industrial Estate, where she had been employed to work for various different companies in the 70s, 80s, 90s and in to the 00s.

Her employers included the General Post Office between 1976 and 1977; BT between 1987 and 1991; Northern Telecom Europe Ltd between 1991 and 2001; and finally Solectron Ltd between 2001 and 2007.

Speaking before her death, Mrs Harper recalled that there was often white dust visible on the products she was working on and their packaging, and that there was general dust within the factory, and it was here that she fears she first came into contact with the deadly dust.

She went on to instruct industrial disease lawyers at Simpson Millar to carry out investigations on her behalf in a bid to better understand the circumstances surrounding her exposure and whether more could have been done to protect her.

Her daughter Jodie is now continuing her battle for answers on her behalf, after an inquest hearing at Gwent Coroner's Court, Civic Centre on the 10th day of December 2020 confirmed that Kay had died from the effects of ‘mesothelioma caused by occupational exposure to asbestos’.

A terminal illness that affects the lining of the lungs, mesothelioma is only caused by exposure to asbestos, which often happens decades before any symptoms appear.

Kay recalled that there was an asbestos roof there in a poor state of repair which was eventually replaced, and there was often maintenance work carried on whilst she and the other factory workers were all working below on the factory floor – she described that it was a dusty process.

Kay also recalled that she was once told that the white dust on the outside of the packaging she would open to access the telephones she was refurbishing was asbestos dust.

She also said that workers were never provided with masks or any other protective equipment.

Speaking on behalf of Kay’s family her daughter, Jodie, said: “We are all still trying to come to terms with mum’s death. She was so kind, and so loving and it’s heart-breaking to think that there is a possibility that her illness could have been prevented.

“We have been devastated by her passing and are now committed to getting the answers she so desperately wanted as to where and when she contracted this horrible illness.”

Jodie added that when Kay received the initial diagnosis, she had spent a lot of time talking about her employment, and the times she could remember coming into contact with asbestos.  

She continued: “Mum had quite a few jobs over the years, but she kept coming back to her time working in the Chapel Farm Industrial Estate.

“One of her most vivid memories was that the asbestos roof of the factory had been in a bad state and had been replaced during her time working. She also recalled that the “trimphones” that she had refurbished were always covered in white dust, including the packaging they came in.

“She told me how it got out in the press at the time that it was asbestos dust, and she said that the phones and packaging were removed in the middle of the night. It’s quite shocking really.”

The family’s solicitor, Anthony Waddington from Simpson Millar’s industrial disease team, is now appealing for witnesses on the family’s behalf. He said: “Mesothelioma is a truly awful disease which causes a lot of pain for the victim, as well as resulting in much heartache for the families.

“The family are now desperate for answers as to where and when she encountered the deadly dust and what protection there was in place to protect workers.

“We are appealing for witnesses who might be able to provide further insight and would like to speak to anyone who worked at the factory at any stage over the last 50 years.”

Sadly, workplace negligence regarding employee exposure to asbestos continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of thousands of people every year. 

Anthony added: “Mesothelioma alone contributes to roughly 2,500 deaths annually and this is a figure that continues to increase and devastate the lives of victims as well as their families. 

“While the dangers of asbestos have been known for many decades there are still, sadly, many people dying prematurely because of related illnesses, because they were not made aware of its presence and were not provided with protective equipment.”

If you have any information, please contact Anthony Waddington at Simpson Millar on anthony.waddington@simpsonmillar.co.uk, or on 0345 357 9200.

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