This week, [24 November] the UK marks the 22nd anniversary of the ban on the use and sale of asbestos – but one Ammanford family are calling on more to be done to protect people from asbestos today after the death of a 45-year-old former infrastructure engineer.

Jason Williams, a father of two teenage children and member of Unite the union, died in October 2019 just months after being diagnosed with the asbestos disease, mesothelioma.

Mr Williams worked for Cap Gemini at Tata Steel in Port Talbot for 10 years after completing an IT degree at Swansea University.

When he was only in his early twenties, he was exposed to asbestos while the Financial Shared Services building was undergoing maintenance work and later being refurbished.

Even when asbestos had been identified in the building, and a section tented off with polythene, Jason continued to be exposed as the polythene sheeting was not adequately sealed and would flap open, meaning Jason continued to be exposed to asbestos at work during this time.

Jason Williams in a blue polo shirt stood by a tree
Jason Williams, who worked at Tata Steel in Port Talbot for 10 years

He stopped working altogether due to illness in January 2019, and was diagnosed with a peritoneal mesothelioma in March 2019.

A peritoneal mesothelioma is a primary tumour in the peritoneum - the lining of the abdomen which helps to protect the contents of the abdomen. This form of the disease is much less common than pleural mesothelioma and though the precise figures are unknown, peritoneal mesothelioma probably represents no more than seven to 10 per cent of all mesotheliomas.

Roy, Mr Williams’ father, said: “When Jason was initially seen by the hospital, they thought his symptoms were caused by Crohn’s disease. However, further investigations showed he had a peritoneal mesothelioma - an awful disease which caused him to lose all his independence.

“Our family was aware of asbestos and the dangers it posed, but – like many – thought it was a problem from yesteryear. We could not believe that, decades after the asbestos ban came into force, Jason and his colleagues would be put in harm’s way like this.”

Prior to his death, Mr Williams contacted Unite Legal Services for legal support. The case continued after he died and the legal experts were able to help the family secure compensation.

His father added: “Amanda Jones from Thompsons Solicitors was absolutely superb. Along with the barrister, Mr Brace, they visited Jason at home and in hospital, and kept us updated every step of the way.

“My wife used to work in a solicitor’s office, so we know full well how difficult the work can be, but the service we were provided was, without a doubt, first-class. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Amanda Jones, the solicitor supporting the family, said: “Although asbestos was banned 22 years ago, it continues to devastate the lives of thousands every year.

“Jason’s employers knew the risks of asbestos yet failed to provide him and his colleagues with adequate protection from asbestos dust. As a result, Jason tragically lost his life at the mere age of 45.

“But this highlights a wider issue - the continued presence of asbestos in buildings across the UK. Letting lethal asbestos sit dormant in workplaces, schools, hospitals and other public buildings is not a long-term solution, so the onus is on those responsible – whether that be employers or governments – to redouble efforts for the proper identification, containment and removal of all asbestos in buildings across the UK.

“Alongside Unite Legal Services, we won’t give up fighting for individuals and their families who are suffering from asbestos-related diseases and we will continue to hold negligent employers to account.”

Peter Hughes, Unite Wales’ regional secretary, added: “I cannot begin to imagine the trauma that Jason’s death has had on his family, especially at such a young age. We knew just how important it was to support them through this ordeal and ensure they received 100 per cent of the compensation through his union membership.

“This tragic story acts as a reminder that just because asbestos use was banned in 1999, the impact of the substance is far from a thing of the past.”