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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Barrow shipyard worker's £400k payout

A FORMER shipyard worker who was exposed to asbestos during his 20-year career believes “some justice has been done” after he was awarded £400,000.

Steven Eveson started working at the Barrow shipyard in 1972 aged just 15 and clocked up almost 20 years as a sheet metal worker’s labourer.

Three years ago, he began suffering from breathing problems and after a visit to his GP was diagnosed with bilateral pleural thickening – a disease caused by exposure to asbestos.

“When I first went to see the doctor he asked me if I’d ever been exposed to asbestos, but I said no,” Mr Eveson said.

“Six months later I was diagnosed... it completely took the wind out of my sails, and it was only then that I realised I had in fact been exposed to it. We used to cover machinery with asbestos when someone was welding but we were never told it was dangerous.”

Mr Eveson, of Brigg Street, Barrow Island, then launched a legal battle against Vickers and VSEL – his former employer, and despite being told by one asbestos specialist solicitor that his claim wasn’t strong enough, he persevered.

He approached Manchester-based law firm JMW, which took on his case and just two days before Mr Eveson was due to appear before a judge, his claim was settled to the tune of £400,000.

“The settlement has brought me peace of mind and is going to help me with living the rest of my life... the compensation does make me feel like some justice has been done and the harm that asbestos can cause has been recognised.”

Asbestos was widely used in the shipyard as well as in other industries and has left a grim legacy of people with conditions ranging from lung scarring called pleural plaques, through to asbestosis and the asbestos lung cancer, mesothelioma, which can take 20, 30 or 40 years to develop.

Mr Eveson, who now has to use a mobility scooter and a portable oxygen tank, said he felt “pretty bitter” at the time of his diagnosis but added: “It was hard to cope with at first but I’ve accepted it now.”

Doctors have told the 56-year-old he has a life expectancy of just five years but he refuses to be downbeat and said: “I live in a flat on Barrow Island, I’d like to get out and buy a house and try and enjoy what time I have left.”

Statistics released yesterday reveal the number of people diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases continues to rise, with Barrow listed by the Health and Safety Executive as the second worst local authority in the country for the risk of death posed by mesothelioma from 1981 to 2000.

Bob Pointer is a co-founder of the Cumbria Asbestos-Related Diseases Support group (CARDS), formerly Barrow Asbestos-Related Diseases Support Group.

He said: “Asbestos is a terrible legacy for the town but it does stretch beyond Barrow – a lot of people travelled in to the shipyard from South Lakeland and Copeland.”

For more information about CARDS and the support offered, call 01229 470616.

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