A North East man who was exposed to asbestos while working at a Tyneside shipyard has been awarded more than £150,000 in compensation.

Charles Cochran, 67, who now lives in Ackram, Middlesbrough, was exposed to asbestos while working as a plumber at the Walker Naval Yard in Newcastle and as a pipe fitter at the ICI chemical plant in Wilton, Teesside.

Charles was awarded the compensation after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos.

No cure for Mesothelioma

There is no cure for the disease and sufferers often have just months to live following diagnosis.

Charles’ case was fought by asbestos claims specialists Thompsons Solicitors who have offices in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

The claim was settled just four months after instructions were received by Thompsons.

Charles began his working life as an 16-year-old apprentice at Walker Naval Yard where he was exposed to asbestos used by shipyard contractors to lag steam pipes.

During the time he worked on some of the Tyne’s most famous ships including the supertanker Esso Durham.

He said had no idea the asbestos was dangerous and remembers colleagues playing football with it during their lunch break.

Never warned of the dangers of asbestos

He said: “Throughout my time at Walker Naval yard, I was never offered a face mask or given any warnings about the dangers of working with asbestos. We wore our own clothes to work and went home in them still covered in dust. Conditions when you were working alongside laggers were very dusty.”

In 1968 Charles joined ICI Wilton as a pipefitter where he was also exposed. He said it was not until many years later when the company began to warn its employees about the affects of asbestos that he realised how dangerous it was.

Charles, who is married to Beryl and has four stepchildren, three children, and 15 grandchildren, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2007 after going to his doctor complaining of flu-like symptoms.

He said: “I had a suspicion that I had mesothelioma as I knew I had worked with asbestos. But it still came as a terrible shock when I was diagnosed. I get very short of breath and I notice this particularly if I try to walk upstairs. I can’t do any gardening or DIY and decorating like I used to do for not only myself but also for my children and step-children.

“This compensation is not going to bring my health back. It will make sure my wife will be looked after. It’s a big relief for me to know that.”

Andrew Venn, from Thompsons Solicitors said: “Mesothelioma is a devastating disease for all involved. It is important asbestos victims and their family members obtain proper compensation from the insurers of the companies who caused the disease.

“In the past many employers failed to take the necessary safeguards to protect their workers from the effects of asbestos dust and now people like Charles and his family are paying the price.
“As specialists we achieve the best possible results for clients. Every mesothelioma sufferer would much rather have good health than compensation. However, without adequate compensation, families affected by this dreadful disease often struggle to cope financially.”

This news story was also published by The Northern Echo, Acklam & Linthorpe Gazette and Evening Gazette.