February 18, 2019

Council agrees pay-out after school cleaner's asbestos death

A COUNCIL says it is managing and monitoring asbestos in its schools, after it agreed to pay compensation for the death of a cleaner following exposure to the deadly fibres.

Durham County Council says it is meeting its legal responsibilities on the now-banned material, which was in common use until the 1970s, despite having admitted liability and agreed to pay out to Alan Hamilton over the death of his wife Laura from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in June 2011.

Mrs Hamilton worked as a cleaner at Belmont Comprehensive School, Durham, in the mid-1980s, when industrial illness lawyer Philip Thompson, who represents her husband, says not only was there asbestos present, but large amounts of brown asbestos was damaged and therefore likely to give off deadly loose fibres.

The out-of-court settlement, of an undisclosed sum, was reached following a three-year legal battle.

Mr Thompson, of Thomson and Co Solicitors, said: “We are delighted to have settled this claim.

“Our client has been determined to prove the extent of asbestos exposure that took place at the school at the time and we had extensive evidence to prove that exposure had taken place.

“Nothing will ever bring back Mrs Hamilton, but this decision will give Mr Hamilton some degree of closure.”

Sean Durran, the council’s senior asbestos officer, said: “We have a comprehensive asbestos management policy and system in place for all council premises, including schools.

“This ensures that asbestos containing materials are managed and monitored in accordance with legal responsibilities.”

Asbestos was commonly used in fireproofing and thermal insulation during the 1960s and 1970s and only banned in the UK in 1999.

Recent reports suggest it is still present in nearly 86 per cent of UK schools.

The Health and Safety Executive says it is “endemic”; and removing it all would cost billions and take decades.

Undisturbed, it can be managed safely; but pressure is growing for the Government to do more.

Mesothelioma claims 2,500 lives in the UK every year – more than the country’s roads – with 300 of those deaths attributed to schools.

Nearly 300 teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980, including 158 in the last decade, and the rate is increasing – from three in 1980 to 19 in 2012.

The Government is producing new guidelines on managing asbestos in schools and continuing to fund its removal “where appropriate”.

Mr Thompson said: “We are reaching the stage where instances of people who have worked in schools, or who have attended schools as pupils, are contracting asbestos related illnesses with increasing frequency, and the Government is rightly under increasing pressure to address the matter.”

He added: “While cases of this kind will never be as widespread as those we saw from shipyards in the region, they are certainly growing more frequent – and people will want reassurance that there is no ongoing danger from asbestos in schools.”

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Council agrees pay-out after school cleaner's asbestos death

Family of asbestos victim exposed at Glasgow carpet factory appeal to former colleagues for help

Frances Hamilton was 75 when she died in May 2014, not long after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The incurable disease is a form of cancer which attacks the lining of the lungs, caused by inhaling asbestos dust and fibres decades ago.

Before her death, Ms Hamilton told lawyers acting in her case that she believed she was exposed to the deadly substance while working at the Templeton carpet factory in Bridgeton, Glasgow, from the late 1950s to the mid-60s. The factory, then run by James Templeton and Company, had been built 1892 and was at one time the largest carpet manufacturer in the world.

She later worked with her mother, who also died of mesothelioma, at Wrights Insulation in 1967 where were exposed to asbestos while sewing boiler covers for steam locomotive engines.

Her son, Mark MacLellan, 48, has instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Scotland to investigate the conditions that his mother was exposed to and what measures, if any, were put in place to prevent workers being exposed to asbestos.

Ms Hamilton told her family she worked in an “extremely dusty” environment and was provided with no overalls or gloves to protect her from coming into contact with the hazardous substance.

Laura McCallum, a specialist asbestos lawyer at the Glasgow legal firm, said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive disease and causes a great deal of pain and suffering for victims like Frances.

“Employers knew the risks of asbestos when she began working in the 1950s and should have provided her with protection to prevent exposure to the dust.

“We would like to hear from employees who worked at the Templeton carpet factory and mill between 1955 and 1975 on the working conditions that they were exposed to and what protective equipment, if any, was provided by their employers.

“This information will be crucial in helping Frances’ family secure justice for their mother and grandmother and we hope anyone who worked with Frances will come forward with the information we need to ensure those responsible for her exposure to asbestos are held to account.”

Another former employee, Helen Winning, who worked at the factory from 1964 until the early 1980s, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006. Her mother, who had been a weaver at Templetons, also died from mesothelioma in 1994.

The factory, which overlooks Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace, was designed by the Scottish architect, William Leiper, and inspired by the medieval Palazzo Ducale in Venice.

It was blighted by tragedy soon after opening when a factory wall collapsed during high winds in 1889, trapping 100 women in the weaving workshop and killing 29.

A fire the following year claimed more lives.

In 1981, James Templeton and Co. merged with A F Stoddard and Henry Widnell & Stewart to form Elderslie-based Stoddard Carpets, which eventually went bust in 2005. The former factory has now been converted into flats and is also home to the West Brewery.

However, the lawyers believe they would be able to sue the factory’s former insurers, which provided cover to the factory from 1950 to 1970.

Payouts could also be sought against the former insurers of Wrights Insulation, which is also defunct.

Mr MacLellan, who lives in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, said: “My mother was devastated when she lost her mum to mesothelioma, so for her to suffer from the same disease was absolutely devastating.

“To find out the disease was caused by her exposure to asbestos simply by going to work every day is even more upsetting for the family.”

Anyone with information about working conditions at the Templeton carpet factory should contact Laura McCallum at Irwin Mitchell Scotland on 0141 300 4083.

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Family of asbestos victim exposed at Glasgow carpet factory appeal to former colleagues for help

Tubman asbestos abatement discussed at council

Demolition continues at the city of Chattanooga's former Harriet Tubman housing complex in East Chattanooga on Monday, November 17, 2014.

Demolition continues at the city of Chattanooga’s former Harriet Tubman housing complex in East Chattanooga on Monday, November 17, 2014.

Photo by

Dan Henry


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What: Information meeting about asbestos abatement at Harriet Tubman demolition site

When: 3:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: City Council committee meeting room

Chattanooga leaders don’t think there’s reason to worry about asbestos in the rubble of the Harriet Tubman development.

Some East Chattanooga residents hired to help demolish the former public housing site aren’t so sure.

Tim Newson, one of 14 East Chattanooga residents hired for the Harriet Tubman demolition, said that while he was on the job, only people actually removing asbestos wore safety equipment. Laborers working next to them didn’t even have face masks, Newson said.

Newson quit the $18.75-an-hour job because of his concerns. He and other East Chattanooga representatives concerned about potential airborne asbestos from the demolition are planning to attend a meeting of the City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee meeting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Councilman Moses Freeman, who represents the East Chattanooga area, said on-site engineers will give a report to the council addressing safety concerns raised by residents living near the area. Professionals will share their procedures for asbestos abatement.

Last week, Assistant City Engineer Dennis Malone said that the city contracted with environmental consulting firm S&ME, an East Coast firm with an office in Chattanooga, to study the Tubman buildings, make recommendations and draw up plans about abatement, and to approve the demolition plan by contractor Environmental Abatement.

Since then, S&ME has monitored the work and found no cause for concern about asbestos, Malone said.

Freeman said the meeting will focus on gathering information, not hearing complaints.

“We’re hearing a report based on a petition signed by a certain number of individuals who expressed concerns,” he said. “Getting information out about the process ought to allay the concerns, because we don’t think there is an asbestos problem.”

Robert Schreane, Hamilton County Coalition housing manager, said he got so many complaints from area residents worried about contaminants in the air that he emailed the Environmental Protection Agency asking for an investigation.

He sent the letter Monday, he said, not knowing that 37 East Chattanooga residents had submitted a petition asking the City Council to order independent environmental testing for airborne asbestos.

Schreane said the coalition makes no accusations of contamination, but it at least wants the EPA to check.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 757-6431.

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Tubman asbestos abatement discussed at council

Asbestos compensation: The families' fight

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Asbestos compensation: The families' fight