The family of a joiner, who died from mesothelioma before he could benefit from his compensation, have warned employers that the deaths will continue unless workers are made aware of and protected against the risks.

The UK’s largest public sector union UNISON helped John Toker, from Thornton, in Liverpool, claim compensation when he was diagnosed with the terminal asbestos-related disease in March 2008.

The union is calling for employers to make workers aware of the potential danger of asbestos in their workplaces and to ensure its removal is handled safely.

65-year-old Mr Toker won an out of court settlement in March this year, but died on 1 April.

Exposed to asbestos while working

The UNISON member had been exposed to asbestos while working for George Allan & Company (Contractors) Limited, between 1966 and 1987.

He helped refurbish Clarence Dock Power Station and was responsible for sweeping up the asbestos dust.

Mr Toker recalled cutting up and using asbestos sheets at a number of locations, fire-proofing ceilings and checking the laggers’ ladders.

In 1988, he became a maintenance inspector for Sefton Borough Council, until he retired in 2006.

Mr Toker had chemotherapy at Clatterbridge Hospital on the Wirral, before having an operation to remove as much of the affected area as possible.

Statement from victim's family

In a statement on behalf of the family, Mr Toker’s son, also named John, said:“'Having worked all of your life as well as bringing up four children, the one thing you look forward to is your retirement.

“Like most proud and strong individuals Dad would keep his pain and discomfort to himself and he fought the pain to the point at which he could not swallow and keep the medication down.

“The nurses were fantastic and did say that most individuals would have been on a 'driver' - an automated pain relief system - a long time before.

“When Dad finally had it fitted he had the best nights sleep for months. But he never woke up from this sleep.

“We were all there for him, there was nothing more we could have done, the only thing that was not possible for us to do was to remove the disease.

“Nothing prepares you for what an individual goes through when they have Mesothelioma and time goes so fast.

“If we could say anything it would be that memories are so precious and they have not been taken from us, he will be in our thoughts always.

“It’s sad that dad’s death will not be the last.”

Employers must make workers aware of the dangers of asbestos

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said: “No amount of compensation can make up for Mr Toker’s suffering and the loss of his life.

“His health was damaged while doing a hard days work.

“It is unjust that he was unable to enjoy the retirement he and his family had looked forward to.

“And sad that, when he received compensation, he did not have time to spend it.

“Employers must face up to their responsibilities and make workers aware of the dangers of asbestos and make sure it is cleared correctly, otherwise the death rate from Mesothelioma will continue to rise.”

Janine Carey from Thompsons Solicitors said: “Mesothelioma is a devastating disease caused by exposure to asbestos.

“We are pleased we were able to bring Mr Toker’s claim to a successful conclusion during his lifetime.

“This case shows how important trade union membership is in helping mesothelioma sufferers, even if the exposure to asbestos occurred many years before the member joined the union.”