The RMT and Thompsons Solicitors have successfully secured compensation for the son of a Crewe man who died after developing the asbestos-related condition, asbestosis.

RMT member Joe Brown worked at an engineering facility between 1947 and 1985, first as a crane driver at its iron works, then a millwright assistant and, later, a furnaceman in the steel foundry. Asbestos was prevalent across the facility as it was used to lag its pipework, boilers and furnaces. Joe would come into contact with it regularly, particularly in his role as furnaceman.

Throughout his career at the factory, which spanned nearly four decades, Joe was never given instruction on safe working practices with asbestos and was not provided with protective equipment to limit his exposure.

"Joe devoted the best part of his career to the engineering facility so it’s sad that, ultimately, it was a contributing factor to his tragic death."

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary

In the summer of 2014, 29 years after retiring, Joe developed pneumonia and was taken to hospital. A scan revealed scarring of his lung tissue but the cause was unclear. Joe’s breathing began to deteriorate until, shortly before his death in March 2015, it was so poor he was unable to walk more than 30 feet.

It was discovered post-mortem that Joe had been suffering from asbestosis, a debilitating lung condition caused by inhaling asbestos dust.

His son, Robert, contacted the RMT on his father’s behalf and instructed asbestos disease specialists Thompsons Solicitors to make a compensation claim. The defendant admitted that Joe had been negligently exposed to asbestos.

Robert said: “For the last nine months of my dad’s life, he was in and out of hospital and we had no idea why. It was frustrating for our entire family because we could not comprehend why his health was deteriorating so rapidly. It took his death for us to understand that it was caused by asbestos, but that only raised more questions.

“I’ve come to realise just how widespread this issue is and that my dad is not the only person that has become severely ill because they were exposed to dangerous substances, like asbestos, at work. The RMT and Thompsons’ legal team helped make sense of all of this for me and my family, and did everything they could to hold my dad’s former employer accountable for what happened.”

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: “Joe devoted the best part of his career to the engineering facility so it’s sad that, ultimately, it was a contributing factor to his tragic death. As he was a member of the RMT, his son was able to contact us free of charge and successfully make a claim for compensation with the support of Thompsons Solicitors. Joe’s RMT membership ensured his son received his damages in full, with no deductions.”

Alan Dolphin, of Thompsons Solicitors, added: “As we were instructed post-mortem, our legal experts were unable to gather a report from Joe about his direct exposure to asbestos. Luckily, we were able to speak with witnesses and build a claim using other evidence, highlighting the negligence of the employer. It ensured Robert and his family got the answers they were desperately seeking.”