The son of a former pipe fitter is appealing to his father’s former workmates from Croydon-based firm Mather and Platt for help in discovering how he came into contact with the asbestos that ultimately claimed his life.
Phillip Peter Webster, known as Peter, died last year, aged 84, from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos.
His son, Kevin Webster, has instructed expert asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his father’s death and whether it was linked to his work history.
Today is Workers’ Memorial Day, and Kevin Webster has launched an appeal to any of his father’s old workmates to come forward with details of the conditions he would have worked under.
They are keen to trace anyone who remember Peter Webster from his time at engineering company Mather and Platt in Croydon. Webster worked for the firm from 1964 to 1982.
Angela Davies, the expert asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell supporting Kevin and his family, said: “Peter’s mesothelioma diagnosis came as a real shock to him and his family. Attempting to come to terms with such a distressing diagnosis meant Peter was unable to explore how he encountered asbestos before his death.
“While Peter’s company was based in the south, his role saw him working in various commercial buildings and facilities throughout the country. If anyone who remembers working with Peter could come forward, it would mean a lot to Kevin and help the family obtain the answers they deserve on how a much-loved father came to be exposed to asbestos.”
Peter Webster began work for Mather and Platt aged 27 in 1964 and stayed there for the next 18 years. As one of the firm’s pipe fitters, Webster was mostly employed installing sprinklers as part of fire protection systems in commercial buildings throughout the country. This included work in buildings operated by high street retailers and department stores such as Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Selfridges, as well as at other locations, such as Gatwick Airport.
Peter told Kevin that his work involved installing new pipes and repairing old ones that were lagged in a material which may have contained asbestos. His work also included taking down ceilings made up of tiles and putting them back up again.
Peter had been in good health until he began to experience respiratory symptoms, including breathing difficulties, in January 2021. Following tests, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in February 2022. Peter died in hospital with his son by his side on March 15, 2022.
Kevin Webster said: “Dad had been in good health prior to having some breathing difficulties, so the mesothelioma diagnosis came as a complete shock. It’s only when asked if he ever worked with asbestos that we began to realise how he could possibly have developed such a serious illness.
“To watch dad decline over that final year was terrible. It’s not fair that his life was ended in such a way by exposure to asbestos that was outside his control.
“We made the best of the time we had together and didn’t speak much of his working life, but he did tell me he believed he may have encountered asbestos regularly.
“If anyone out there who remembers dad could get in touch, it’d mean a lot to hear from them. Nothing can bring dad back to us, but any information will allow us to answer some of our questions and give our family some closure over what has been such a difficult time.”
Anyone with information that could help Kevin is asked to contact Angela Davies at Irwin Mitchell on 0114 274 4538.
Workers’ Memorial Day remembers those who have died as a result of their employment, and campaigns to improve health and safety standards in the workplace and increase protection for employees.
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We live in a world of risks from knowns and unknowns. I think we need to be very careful of trying to rewrite history of what might have been if the unknowns at the time never happened. We are currently living in a world where people are trying to rewrite history of the known things that happened and look where that is leading us.
Except Asbestos risks were known and ignored. Same as tobacco was ignored, same as diesal particulates were ignored.
There are very large differences between, people wanting to rewrite real actions that happened to configure them to suit their perceptions, and cover ups of known wrongdoings that were known at the time.
There are real reasons why the law is very clear about Asbestos related deaths – not a new generational fiction.
I wish Kevin well in his search for the truth of how his dad contracted that horrible disease and our condolances for the faily’s loss.
The danger posed by asbestos have been known for over a century. Unscrupulous manufacturers and employers ignored the risks to employees, consumers and the public. One of the worst examples is from the 1950s when the American cigarette brand Kent came with a new filter made from “Micronite”. What it was really made from was asbestos. John should get his history right.
Asbestos is also rife in our older London hospitals. Demolition at the Royal London Hospital highlighted that the buildings were riddled with asbestos. Many older doctors and nurses have the disease but since it takes many years to develop to the final stages, people often die of other causes, and the government (unsurprisingly) denies the asbestos link.
Not sure the Government denies asbestos in buildings – see https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/regulations.htm.
The rules are quire stringent and the process probably the best currently for managing the risks In hospitals and all Government premises. there are qualified trust and union representatives that regularly inspect all parts of the premises and Asbestos will be listed if there is any left on site. In addition they acknowledge sites were it has been removed. Public srvice records can show historical records of who worked at those sites if employed there. All Lawyers are and should be able to identify causation. (Contractors and non employed it is more difficult)
The injury legislation itself can make it very difficult to bring a case but there are plenty of lawyers who know of the relevent precedents to many of the situations that can occur now, that were caused in the 50s onwards.
Some problems can be in Buildings that were privately run and those that did not or do not have those measures or records in place. Or sometimes those that outsourced the responsibility externally.
But many outsource the building but retain liability for that risk. Nothing in this area I have found is ever stratightforward and it has many facets to consider. I personally shy away from being judgemental about the whole situation.
My heart goes out to any victim of asbestos, and their loved ones.
Asbestos was the wonder substance of the early 20th century, and probably saved many lives, but at the awful cost of those who worked in asbestos-laden environments, and who later developed asbestosis.
One hopes, after decades of improved practice and changes to the Law, that people now only deal with asbestos detection and removal in the safe and legally correct way. In the old days, which were not that long ago, people were ignorant of the risks.