Asbestos exposure led to killer disease in Swindon railway worker

A FORMER apprentice at the Swindon Railway Works told in a statement written before his death how he was continually exposed to asbestos at the factory.

Royston Smith died of mesothelioma, a type of cancer suffered by people who have come into contact with the substance.

In a statement read by assistant deputy coroner Ian Singleton at his inquest, he described how he began at the works as an office boy in 1945.

Asbestos was in widespread use at the factory, including in the lagging, boilers and pipes, and he came into contact with the material in a number of ‘shops’.

Mr Smith, who died aged 82, began an apprenticeship on his 16th birthday as a fitter, turner and erector at the works.

He left in 1951 to work as an assistant engineer on ships belonging to P & O, where asbestos was also in use.

Mr Smith told in his statement how British Rail and P & O “never gave masks, warnings or protective clothing”.

He also worked for other shipping companies, including Atlantic Steam, and in the merchant navy. He later returned to the British Railway factory in Swindon where he was again exposed to the hazardous substance.

He said: “There was asbestos lagging in coaches. This was exposed because new carriages were being built.”

Asbestos also fell underneath the coaches, Salisbury Coroners’ Court heard on Tuesday.

Mr Smith left in 1960 to work at the former Pressed Steel factory in Swindon as a millwright, where he came into contact with asbestos blocks.

He developed pleural plaques in 1993, a scarring of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.

Mr Smith, from Ridgeway Road, Stratton, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2012 and died on November 16 last year.

Assistant deputy coroner Ian Singleton said: “I am satisfied that the cause of death is as given by the pathologist, namely mesothelioma, which is an industrial disease.”

Mr Smith was represented in a successful claim against British Rail by Brigitte Chandler, who is based in Old Town with Charles Lucas & Marshall solicitors. British Rail have already made an interim payment of £50,000 to his family and are expected to pay a six-figure sum to his widow Doreen to cover loss of income, funeral expenses and other expenditure incurred as result of his death.

Ms Chandler said the main cause of exposure had been Mr Smith’s time at the Railway Works.

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