Norfolk carpenter’s warning to younger tradespeople about asbestos dangers

61 year old carpenter John Jackson was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January, following exposure to asbestos back in the 1960s and 1970s while working for a small regional carpentry firm.

The Eastern Daily Press has reported how he was shocked to discover that, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), every week on average 20 people die in the UK from exposure to asbestos, making it the single largest cause of work-related deaths.

Figures published by the HSE in 2015 showed that there had been 713 deaths in Norfolk from mesothelioma between 1981 and 2011, 20% more than in Suffolk where there had been 593 deaths. Mr Jackson said:

“Most tradespeople will know the use of asbestos is illegal, however the ban only started in 1999. This means many older buildings still contain it and many younger tradespeople will not have worked directly with it and may be unfamiliar with what it looks like and where it can be found. Alarmingly it seems tradespeople are now being exposed to asbestos through a lack of training and ignorance of the dangers.”

Now, he is hoping to get the word out with help from the Anglia Asbestos Support Group, sponsored locally by solicitors Ashtons Legal.

In recent years the British Lung Foundation launched the campaign Take Five and Stay Alive which aims to ensure tradespeople have the knowledge to act safely and responsibly.

But Phoebe Osborne, a specialist solicitor at Ashtons concentrating solely on personal injury claims for asbestos-related disease, said:

“Sadly this is not being adhered to and many younger tradespeople are exposing themselves to asbestos, potentially storing up life-threatening issues for the future. In some cases this seems to be because they are worried alerting someone to the issue or refusing to finish a job will lose them the work and related income.”

Mr Jackson added:

“I now face an uncertain future and am concerned family members who came into contact with asbestos from my work overalls may also be at risk.

My aim, whilst I am well enough, is to educate fellow carpenters and other tradespeople to the potential dangers of asbestos exposure.”