The GMB union has secured compensation for a former Tyneside shipyard worker after he was diagnosed with a disabling lung condition caused by asbestos.

Thomas Hepple, 72, from North Shields, was diagnosed with pleural thickening – a debilitating lung condition – after developing severe chest pain and breathlessness in May 2010.

A shipyard worker on Tyneside, he was employed as a labourer by three different shipyards during the 1950s and 1960s. He was exposed to the deadly dust while working alongside laggers who were using asbestos on the ships but was never given protective equipment nor warned that he might be at risk.

The condition has left Thomas unable to walk further than 100 meters and he struggles to climb the stairs in his own home.

The GMB instructed its lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors, to investigate his case

After he was diagnosed Mr Hepple contacted his trade union, the GMB, who instructed its lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors, to investigate his case.

Thompsons was successful in securing a provisional settlement for Mr Hepple which will still allow him to make a further claim for compensation if his condition worsens in the future or he develops a more serious form of asbestos-related disease.

Mr Hepple said: “I worked in shipyards for a number of years and when I began to suffer from breathing difficulties I did start to worry about all the time I had worked around asbestos. I’ve seen too many of my friends get asbestos diseases and, to be honest, I feared the worst.

“This has left me virtually housebound. I can’t walk very far and even on short trips have to really pace myself. I worry about the future and if I’ll develop a cancer like mesothelioma.”

Many members who worked in shipyards were exposed to asbestos

Tom Brennan, GMB Northern Regional Secretary added: “Sadly many of our members who worked in shipyards were exposed to asbestos and not warned that it could cost them their health.

“The union makes sure that any member who becomes ill as a result of asbestos exposure gets full legal backing to make a claim.”

Gill Connelly from Thompsons Solicitors said: “Pleural thickening is sadly a regular consequence of exposure to asbestos. It can leave sufferers struggling to carry out normal, everyday tasks.

“A provisional settlement means Mr Hepple gets some compensation now and he can claim further damages at any time in the future if his condition seriously deteriorates.”