A head of stage staff who worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for almost 40 years has received compensation after he was diagnosed with an asbestos related disease.

Alan Morris, 71, from Ivybridge in South Devon, was diagnosed with pleural thickening in 2005 after he went to his doctor with breathing difficulties. The condition is not fatal.

When Alan was diagnosed he contacted his union BECTU which instructed asbestos claims specialists Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation.

Liability was admitted and the claim was settled for a final payment of £18,000.

Exposed to asbestos at work

Mr Morris was exposed to asbestos while working for the RSC in Stratford Upon Avon as a carpenter before becoming responsible for the technical side of the company’s shows backstage.

He worked for the RSC for 39 years working his way up from stage hand in 1958 to master carpenter when he retired in 1997.

Asbestos was present in the stage safety curtains, stage props and in the fabric of the buildings he worked in.

He said during the early days of his work he did not realise the dangers asbestos could pose to his health. After he retired he heard of a former colleague who died from asbestos related cancer mesothelioma which alerted him to how dangerous asbestos is.

He said: “Most people associate asbestos with people who work in ship yards and heavy industry but I am proof that this can happen to anyone. By pursuing compensation I wanted to make people aware of the risks.

“Asbestos was contained in many of the materials used in stage design and theatre production, from the stage curtain to props and in the fabric of the buildings. It was not until many years later that I discovered the dangers.

“Pleural thickening has affected my breathing and I notice it most when I am walking or playing golf. I know I could go on to develop a more serious disease but I try not to think about it.”

Everyone who worked with asbestos is at risk of developing a disease

Andy Egan from BECTU said: “Asbestos related diseases are not something you would usually associate with people who work in the arts but this case shows that everyone who worked with asbestos is at risk of developing a disease.

“We are pleased that union support has helped our member pursue a successful claim for compensation.”

Petra Williams from Thompsons Solicitors said: “Pleural thickening can be a debilitating condition and it is only right that Mr Morris is compensated. He was exposed to asbestos 50 years ago doing the job he loved. He should have been safeguarded against the dangers by his employer.”