Compensation family warn of asbestos risk

Stephen Harrison near his father's home in Egton Bridge''w121114b
Stephen Harrison near his father's home in Egton Bridge''w121114b

THE family of a well known local man has issued a warning about the hidden dangers of asbestos after accepting a “significant” out of court settlement from his previous employers.

Former Lions president William Harrison, known as Bill, died in June last year just three months after being diagnosed with killer disease mesothelioma.

A case against two of his former employers - Egton Estates Company and S.B Woodworking - has just been settled even though he stopped working for them over 40 and 30 years ago respectively.

His family wouldn’t reveal the financial compensation agreed but wanted to make people aware of the dangers of asbestos, widely used after the war, and how symptoms of illness can take years and even decades to show up.

Speaking exclusively to the Whitby Gazette, his son Stephen Harrison said: “We had no idea dad had been exposed in his working life until we saw the report he gave to the solicitor.

“Compensation is not going to fetch a loved one back by any means but it makes life a little bit easier in the months and years after.

“If it wasn’t for mesothelioma he could have been around x number of years to see his great-grandaughter grow up and start school.

“I am not blaming anybody but trying to make people aware of the consequences of exposure to asbestos - not just people like us but employers as well, they have a big responsibility to make sure people are safe in the work place.

“It obviously didn’t happen 40, 50 and 60 years ago but times move on and things change.”

Bill worked as a joiner for his father’s company Robert Harrison and Sons in 1946 when he left school aged 14 doing three or four jobs that involved asbestos before completing National Service between 1953 and 1955.

The legal action was based around his time at Egton Estates Company (1955-1965) and S.B Woodworking where he worked from 1966 to 1980.

At both firms he was required to cut asbestos sheets using a circular saw, which generated a lot of dust which he inhaled.

Even he stopped working with the material, used because it was heat resistant and cheap, Bill of Sandsend Cottages, Egton Bridge worked in close proximity to other people who were.

When Bill left S.B Woodworking he went back to the family firm but had to finish work in 2005 due to ill-health.

Solicitor, Richard Green of Thrings, said there had been an increase in the north east in asbestos cases which are expected to peak in 2015.

He added: “The north east is such a hot spot with steel, shipping and heavy industry. There must have been hundreds of claims over the last few years and that is only going to get worse.

“If people have been diagnosed with any form of asbestos related condition I would urge them to seek advice as soon as possible as to what can be done in relation to government benefits and compensation related claims.”