Witness Appeal: Working Conditions at St Matthias College, Bristol

 23 June 2020

An ex-teacher has issued an appeal for former colleagues and pupils at the school where he worked to come forward with information about the conditions of his workplace after doctors diagnosed him with the asbestos related cancer, Mesothelioma.

Brian Parkinson, 92, from Salcombe, Devon visited his GP at the Torbay Hospital in mid-2019 after he started to experience trouble with his breathing, further to which an x-ray revealed fluid in his lungs.

In August 2019, he was given the devastating diagnosis of Mesothelioma.

As part of his condition Brian had a permanent drain for his lung inserted and district nurses came to his house every three days to drain fluid from his lungs.

He is now appealing for any past pupils or anyone he worked with throughout his career at St Matthias College in Bristol between 1961 to 1979 and/or The University of The West of England between 1979 to 1983, to help him gather the facts, or who may have some knowledge of asbestos at the site.

He has instructed Industrial Disease Solicitors at Simpson Millar to help him establish where and when his exposure to asbestos took place and whether it could have been prevented.

Brian said, “My family and I are devastated at my diagnosis. I’ve been fit and healthy for most of my life and this diagnosis came completely out of the blue.

“I was married to my wife for 63 years but she passed away last year and so I live at home alone. I have no one but my nephew and he is there to act as the Executor of my will. Prior to my diagnosis, I was capable of looking after myself at home but now I’m not sure that’s possible anymore and I may have to go into a nursing home.

“I was never warned of the dangers of asbestos, and never provided with any protective gear against the material in my job. I’m desperate now for answers as to why more wasn’t done to protect us and would urge any of my ex-colleagues, or other people who worked at the College and University, to come forward with any information that might help.”

During his time at St Matthias College, Brian taught at a newly built science laboratory where, due to areas not being cordoned off properly, there was dust coming from the building works and, as Brian was closely involved due to helping design it, he was there quite frequently and remembers that as soon as construction was complete they were moved into the new building imminently.

There was also a chapel in the close vicinity of the College while Brian was there that was undergoing rebuilding and there was a considerable amount of dust in the area that he recalled being very close to while walking by.

Brian recalled that he directly and frequently came into contact with the asbestos Bunsen burner mats that were used by both himself and his students at least once every couple months for experiments. The asbestos mats, he remembered, were fibrous and dusty and they weren’t handled with any particular care as he wasn’t warned about the possible dangers of asbestos.

After his time at St Matthias College, Brian moved on to work for the Bristol Polytechnic- now The University of the West of England - and handled Bunsen burner mats much like the ones he came into frequent contact with during his time at St Matthias.

The family’s Solicitor Anthony Waddington, who specialises in asbestos claims at Simpson Millar said, “We are looking to speak to anyone who worked at St Matthias College between 1961 and 1979 or The University of The West if England between 1979 and 1983, or any former pupils, to gain an understanding of the working conditions and relevant safety procedures in place during the time that would have protected staff from exposure to the harmful asbestos fibres and dust.

“Mr Parkinson is very unwell due to his illness, and we hope to be able to get him some answers as to why he was exposed to asbestos at work, and to also secure a care package that will provide some financial security for him and his family whilst he struggles with his condition.”

If you have any information about the use of asbestos materials at St Matthias College or The University of The West of England please call Anthony Waddington on 0808 129 3320 or use the contact form below.

Brian Parkinson

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