Shipyard workers urged to speak up as Barrow asbestos deaths are treble national average

The widow of a shipyard worker who died from lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure wants to know why more wasn’t done to protect him as figures predict fatality rates will peak by 2018.

Kay Eccles from Broughton lost her husband Sam, 85, in February following a year long battle with lung cancer.

At the inquest held in Barrow on September 14, a coroner ruled that the painter and decorator’s cause of death was industrial disease sparking an appeal from his family who are now urging former Vickers Armstrong employees to come forward and speak up about asbestos.

The appeal has come just as new figures released by the Office for National Statistics revealed that mortality rates in Barrow are almost three times the national average for mesothelioma deaths.

According to the ONS, there are 4.51 deaths for every 100,000 people – in Barrow this figure is 11.57. Mrs Eccles said:

“Sam was always a fit and active man and was in great health until early 2015 when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

The diagnosis took us all by surprise and it was extremely hard for us to see his health deteriorate as he battled against the disease.

We want to know why more wasn’t done to protect him from the risks asbestos posed to his health by Vickers Armstrong and hope that taking legal action will help us secure justice in Sam’s name.”

Mr Eccles spent more than 20 years on board ships and submarines, often for long periods of time.

His wife explained that many other tradesmen such as joiners and laggers were also in the dusty environments where asbestos was used to insulate pipework.

The family hope other workers can come forward and share any information relating to Mr Eccles’ exposure to asbestos or the safety measures put in place by the firm, and the warnings provided to staff about the health risks associated with asbestos.

Neil Sugarman, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers said:

“Areas such as Barrow, which has a high rate of deaths from mesothelioma, are no doubt seeing the effects of past industry where workers were negligently exposed to asbestos.

People went to work and came home with a death sentence because their negligent employers exposed them to asbestos. It’s a national tragedy.”