James Murray is 72 years old. He worked for Carlisle City Council between 1954 and 1963, and for HM Prison Service between 1972 and 1999, during which time he says he was exposed to asbestos.
In October 2010, he began to develop symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing and lack of energy, and went on to be diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the tissues surrounding the lungs. He has had to undergo surgery to drain fluid from his chest, and come to terms with the fact that his condition will deteriorate and his illness will most likely kill him within a year.
Mr Murray’s High Court writ indicates that, as an apprentice and then as a fully qualified plumber, he worked in boiler rooms containing asbestos-lagged equipment, and often disturbed the asbestos lagging, causing dust to be released. In some cases, he used a hammer and chisel to remove the lagging, and also worked in roof spaces where he inhaled asbestos dust. He also mixed up asbestos powder when working at the men’s hostel on Lowther Street, Carlisle.
Mr Murray went on to work at Brixton Prison, where he repaired boilers and pipework covered in asbestos lagging. He claims that he was even exposed to asbestos during breaks, when he and his colleagues sat in dust-covered overalls in the tearoom. Although he was promoted to a supervisory role after working at the prison for 7 years, his duties still involved entering boiler rooms and roof spaces where asbestos dust was prevalent. He was also exposed when he undertook work at Maidstone Prison in 1985.
Mr Murray’s former employers acted negligently, exposing him to potentially fatal risks without warning him or providing suitable protection such as breathing apparatus or proper ventilation, the court will hear.
His solicitors intend to seek as much as £200,000 in compensation.
Carlisle City Council have so far declined to comment on the case, as legal proceedings are still ongoing.
In recent months, an increasing number of people in Cumbria have died from asbestos-related disease, continuing a trend that saw 115 mesothelioma fatalities from 2001 to 2005.
Plumbers, as well as joiners and electricians, are regarded as being at heightened risk of asbestos-related illness, although the regulations governing the handling of the material in the workplace have been strengthened substantially.
Have you been exposed to asbestos in the workplace? Find out more about claiming compensation for mesothelioma.