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Written on 30th January 2024 by Laura Magson

Laura acted for Brian* who was sadly diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2023 following an apprenticeship in plumbing and heating in the 1960s. Brian began his apprenticeship in March 1967 for his uncle’s company. He was working for the plumbing and heating company for four days a week and was doing one day “day release” at High Wycombe Technical College.

Plumbing apprenticeship

A regular part of Brian’s job was taking out old boilers on big jobs such as stately homes. The majority of the boilers and the associated pipework that he came across during his apprenticeship had been lagged with asbestos. Removing the boilers was heavy work as they were cast iron and he was often involved in the replacement of existing asbestos lagged pipes and all of the associated pipework. He used hand tools such as a hammer and chisel to remove the asbestos, then a shovel and broom to clear up any asbestos debris. He often smashed up the old asbestos with a club hammer, as it was job as one of the youngest to dispose of it. Often, the asbestos lagging had been put on previously and was in poor condition and was deteriorating. There were also many incidents when he needed to take down an external flue that was old asbestos and then replace it with a new one. He also worked with asbestos gutters and downpipes which were made from asbestos cement, unloading them from lorries, taking them to storage and then taking them out when needed and working on scaffold. He measured and cut the downpipes and asbestos gutters by hand saw, generally cutting up outside whether it was raining or not. He also worked alongside carpenters who cut asbestos sheets for boxing in pipes and for fire doors.

He had no protective equipment provided during the course of his apprenticeship. He stayed on for another four or five years for the company but towards the end of his time, he recalls that the asbestos exposure was much less as more up-to-date products were coming to the market which he believed were asbestos free.

Brian then set up his own company in or around the mid-1970s where he carried out plumbing and heating maintenance work for a company in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. He then set up his own company and had no asbestos exposure from then onwards.

Symptoms Develop

Brian was fit and well (he has never smoked) at the time of his diagnosis, and had no plans to retire in the immediate future. He planned to work full time well into eighties, and his wife also had no plans to retire.

Brian started to notice a decrease in his fitness when playing golf and needing to take a break from certain holes which had inclines. On seeing his GP, he was referred for a chest x-ray and then sent immediately to Accident & Emergency where he had some fluid drained from his lung. Investigations ensured resulting in a biopsy that confirmed the mesothelioma, a talc pleurodesis and he is currently having immunotherapy.

Employers Liability Insurance

As the plumbing and heating company that exposed Brian to asbestos was dissolved many years ago, we set about trying to ascertain the employers’ liability insurers for the period in question. The steps that we can take to determine insurers include making applications to the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office and contacting former directors and secretaries of the company. Where company records exist, we also look for information about insurance brokers and any payments to insurers within the accounts. Unfortunately, none of the records existed at Companies House, but Brian thought that the insurer was one of two names that he recalled.  We reached out to these individual insurance companies that are well known to us to see if they held the insurance for the years in question that Brian was employed. Whilst the insurers were responsive, we received no positive results.

There is a scheme of last resort designed to compensate people with mesothelioma who have been exposed to asbestos during the course of their employment, where the employer is no longer is in existence and there is no applicable insurance. Once we had exhausted all other avenues, we made the application to what is known as the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) and Brian received £153,000 gross within just over three months after we were contacted.

If the insurers are subsequently traced, Brian will still be able to make a civil claim for compensation via the court process. Credit will simply need to be given for the compensation he has already received.

Brian said:

‘May we please both thank you for your input and successful outcome- you made the process very easy for us and we were very impressed with speed and professionalism in this regard, we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending should the need arise’.

*names have been annoymised

For more information about how the mesothelioma and asbestos disease claims team can help you or your loved ones after a diagnosis of an asbestos related disease, please contact the team by email on or by telephone on 0118 952 7199.