I recently met an old friend, David Carter, who remains a great friend and representative to all those who worked in the Devonport Royal Dockyard at Plymouth. He has long been an adviser to those who have suffered the consequences of asbestos, in his trade union position before retirement, and as a helpful friend since.
David wrote to the local papers with some very sensible advice to those who have worked with asbestos. He suggests you keep a written record of your employers and the work you did which exposed you to asbestos. He has in mind someone who suffers an asbestos disease many years after their employment. To gain compensation the first question will be where did you work, the dates, and how were you exposed to asbestos. Making a record today will produce a better record than your answers in twenty years time. Your record also makes it easier for your family to take action if you are too ill to help.
It is sad to be offering such advise, but it is very good advice. My experience of asbestos compensation cases is that the asbestos injury is made a little easier by the knowledge that some financial security will be left behind for the family. So make that employment record now following David’s advice below. If you do it will make winning compensation easier and quicker.
The full text of David Carter’s letter was printed in the Plymouth Herald with the headline:
“In time, nobody will remember us Yardies
It was in the late 1970s, after much trade union pressure, that the Ministry of Defence began an investigation into the possible health hazard of asbestos dust inhalation by employees working on ships under refit or repair.
The main activity of the investigation was at Devonport Dockyard. It happened to coincide with the latter part of a four-year modernisation of Ark Royal, in my view the last true aircraft carrier, with steam boilers, turbines and fitted with aircraft catapults and arrester gear.
My personal association with asbestos insulation started in 1947 as a 15-year-old apprentice, on a conducted tour of a ship in refit, walking through a messdeck where a painter was spraying asbestos material on the shipside. I was told the process was called SLA (sprayed limpet asbestos). The problems with dust occurred years later when SLA was removed in an uncontrolled manner, and the men, supervisors and managers were unaware of the dangers. Time has shown that asbestos disease has no respect of rank or authority.
So this letter is directed at men who are aged over 50, who once worked in the dockyard and may have been exposed to asbestos dust. I am not advocating any form of compensation claim, but I am strongly advising each of you should put pen to paper and record where you were working, what ships you remember working on, the names of your supervisors and the names and addresses of any living workmates. Sign it in the presence of a witness who should also sign, date and add an address. Then put it away in a place of safety. Don’t leave it for somebody else to do, remember there were 16,000 of us working in the yard during the Cold War years.
In time nobody is going to remember us and there are very few individual records in existence.