The family of a man who died from an asbestos-related illness are taking legal action against his former employer.
Gordon William Edward Cooke worked at British Sugar's factory in Alscott, Shropshire between 1965 & 1997. He died of lung cancer in April this year at the age of 74, but a post-mortem examination found that his condition had been made worse by exposure to asbestos.
Mr Cooke frequently came into contact with asbestos fibres while carrying out maintenance work on British Sugar's plant; the Shropshire Star reports.
John Ellery, a coroner for Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, therefore determined that he died because of an industrial disease. He said there was a "clear connection" between Mr Cooke's activities at work and the cause of his death.
"Locally we know that whilst there could be permanent work it was extremely busy during what was called the campaign, when the sugar beet came into the factory, and it was processed and the sugar came back out the other end," Mr Ellery commented.
"He was a sugar boiler and he also did maintenance work where he came into contact with asbestos.”
The family of Mr Cooke are now understood to be planning legal action against British Sugar in order to secure compensation for Mesothelioma. This is far from an isolated case, with another inquest into the death of a retired electrical technician reaching a similar verdict this week.
Derek Wilson had worked at York Carriageworks from 1973 to 1988, but went on to develop malignant Mesothelioma in later life, the York Press reports.
He died in March this year at the age of 65 at St Leonard's Hospice in York. However, he was able to provide details of his exposure to asbestos in a statement to his solicitors prior to his death.
Mr Wilson stated that the work on carriages being carried out at his workplace led to white and blue asbestos frequently being thrown into the air. He was often left covered in the dust and therefore had to have a wash after every shift.
A post-mortem examination confirmed that there were asbestos fibres in his body and that exposure to the substance had led to him developing malignant Mesothelioma.
The coroner in the case therefore concluded that an industrial disease was his cause of death.
Mesothelioma Deaths to Increase
According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the number of mesothelioma deaths fell to 2,291 in 2011, down from 2,360 in the previous year.
However, the regulator believes this drop is not reflective of the long-term trend, with the annual number of mesothelioma fatalities likely to keep rising before peaking in 2018 and 2019.
"Most mesothelioma deaths occurring now are a legacy of past occupational exposures to asbestos when it was widely used in the building industry," the HSE observed.
The regulator added that asbestos is the "single greatest cause" of work-related deaths in Britain, with men who worked in the construction trade when the substance was widely used being especially vulnerable to Mesothelioma.
By Francesca Witney