A Unite member who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos at work has been awarded six-figure compensation.

John Talbot, 88, started a five-year apprenticeship to become a fitter at a Cheshire-based chemical manufacturer in 1945. He worked across the firm’s premises, insulating valves with asbestos, working near boilers that were lagged with asbestos and helping to remove the asbestos insulation for maintenance. The asbestos dust would often settle on his clothes.

After two years of national service, John returned to the firm in 1952 as a qualified fitter and later a maintenance foreman. In the few years before his retirement in 1981, contractors removed asbestos products from the factory. The areas were not sealed off, so John and his colleagues continued working nearby.

He was never given a mask to protect him from the dangerous substance. In the latter years of his employment, senior management informed him of the dangers of asbestos, but he had already worked with it for decades.

In September 2016, John became short of breath. He visited his GP the following month, who referred him to hospital. An X-ray found fluid on his lung and a later biopsy discovered asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

His son, Mark, said: “Even into his 80s, my dad was fit and healthy, enjoying holidays abroad and getting out and about regularly. Within a few months, he deteriorated drastically. Now he cannot leave the house or walk unassisted. I’ve moved in to take care of him and my mum. It’s been a terrible ordeal for all of us.”

As a member of Unite, John was able to turn to Unite Legal Services for guidance and instructed Thompsons Solicitors to make a compensation claim.

"Being able to access free, specialist legal advice has meant that John has been able to secure the maximum compensation possible, without any deduction for legal fees."

Ritchie James
North West regional secretary at Unite the Union

“By the time my dad knew how bad asbestos was for his health, it was far too late,” Mark said. “He was exposed to the deadly substance for years on end by an employer that should have known better, routinely failed to protect him. You begin to wonder just how many others who worked there are suffering in the same way.

“We are fortunate Dad is a Unite member, as without their guidance a legal claim would have been just too daunting for us at such a traumatic time. The union explained what we needed to do and put us in contact with Thompsons, who fought tooth and nail for us.”

Thompsons Solicitors has unrivalled experience in asbestos disease compensation claims. The firm’s #PastButPresent campaign aims to highlight the voices of workers – such as John - who were exposed to asbestos in the past, but continue to be affected by it in the present.

Ritchie James, North West regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “John’s case is a tragic example of the serious implications poor health and safety procedures can have on a worker and their family. Sadly, his case is hardly rare in the UK. We have seen many members develop asbestos diseases after years, even decades, of exposure in the workplace.

“Being able to access free, specialist legal advice has meant that John has been able to secure the maximum compensation possible, without any deduction for legal fees. This took away all the worry of bringing a claim, and the compensation gives John and his family financial security in the future, whatever happens.”