Engineer Dies after Handling Asbestos Every Day for Two Years


A retired engineer died after working with asbestos for 72 hours a week, an inquest has heard. Dennis Baker, of Wellington Walk in Westbury on Trym, died on April 14 after developing lung disease.

Engineer Dies after Handling Asbestos Every Day for Two Years

The 70-year-old had worked as an insulation engineer and a lagger for several employers over the years.

At a recent inquest at Avon Coroners' Court, it was reported that Mr Baker had worked up to 72 hours a week during his time as a lagger in the 1960s.

Seven Days a Week for Two Years

He both mixed and transported asbestos during a period of about two years, when he worked seven days a week. While he was still alive, Mr Baker had reported that asbestos had been mixed and applied to pipes as insulation and that asbestos dust was in the air as he worked.

A post mortem by Dr Karin Denton, a consultant at North Bristol NHS Trust, found that the cause of his death was acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a condition where the lungs cannot provide enough oxygen for the body to function.

The autopsy report stated: "Mr Baker had an occupational history of asbestos exposure…It was likely that he did have asbestosis but I was unable to confirm that…The respiratory distress was caused by primary lung cancer."

Mr Baker, who was married, died at Bristol Royal Infirmary. He had been admitted with pneumonia, but his health had then deteriorated before he passed away in April. ARDS usually develops as a complication of a serious existing health condition.

Most people have already been admitted to hospital by the time the symptoms of ARDS begin.

Industrial Disease

Assistant coroner Dr Peter Harrowing said, "Mr Baker made reference to a number of employers he worked for…He had a history of exposure to asbestos…The cause of death was industrial disease."

Gavin Evans, Partner and Head of Industrial Disease at the Bristol office of Simpson Millar solicitors, who specialise in dealing with industrial disease cases like this commented:

“This is a very sad case where unprotected exposure to asbestos has probably caused or at least contributed to Mr Baker’s premature death. It does take a high level of exposure to asbestos over a sustained period of time to cause lung cancer."

"Although Mr Baker was only exposed for a couple of years that can be enough to kill someone where the intensity of the exposure is so severe."

"The dangers of exposing workers to asbestos dust were widely known by the 1960s and so there is no reasonable excuse for Mr Baker’s former employers not to have provided him with suitable respiratory protection.”

It's easy to see why greater safety measures must be adopted to protect people working in environments where they could be at risk of asbestos exposure. Sadly, we're still seeing many people who have been exposed in the past falling ill, and some employers are still not adopting best practice in keeping workers safe.

Our Industrial Disease team at Simpson Millar LLP are experienced in supporting people who have fallen ill after being exposed to asbestos in the past and their families. If you have fallen ill and your employer, past or present, could be to blame, it's important to get the right legal advice.

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