A GRANDFATHER who raised concerns about dusty working conditions was told not to worry as it was ‘safe asbestos’ he was inhaling.
Dad-of-two Frederick Weeks was working in an armoury as a truck driver when he believes he inhaled the asbestos that has left him with just months to live.
The 77-year-old says his diagnosis of mesothelioma, an aggressive and incurable cancer which is linked to asbestos exposure, has left him in ‘agony every day’ unable to do many of the things he enjoyed doing before.
Mr Weeks was working for the Ministry of Defence at the Bedenham armament depot in Gosport in the late 1970s and early 80s when he believes he was exposed.
The retired forklift truck driver and grandfather of three said: ‘There were over 100 buildings in which I worked and many of them contained asbestos. In one of the buildings I worked in there was a team of builders demolishing an asbestos veranda and roof. I wasn’t given any breathing equipment and it was impossible to avoid breathing in dust. I could see it floating around in front of my face.
‘The builders demolishing the roof were smashing it from the ceiling by hand so that great lumps of asbestos fell to the ground from the ceiling and smashed onto the floor. Huge clouds of dust were created as they did this.’
And it wasn’t only Mr Weeks and his colleagues who were exposed to the lethal fibres.
He added: ‘For many years there was a herd of cows and also some horses on occasion on site. They were there to eat the grass but sometimes they were moved by the farmer into the box room area which contained large radiators. The heat to these was supplied by large pipes that were lagged with asbestos with some kind of plastic wrap over the top.
‘On many occasions I saw cows tearing off the plastic wrapping to get at the asbestos lagging underneath to eat it. Dust would go into the air when they tore the plastic away and my colleagues and I often commented on it.’
Mr Weeks, who lives in Gosport, says he raised concerns about the asbestos being removed but his fears were dismissed.
He said: ‘I was told that I shouldn’t worry as this was the safe asbestos they were taking down and there was no danger to my health.
‘I had no choice but to go back into the building to move the boxes because I was told that I would lose my job if I didn’t. I wasn’t supplied with any breathing equipment to use nor were there any extractor fans or vacuum cleaners to dissipate the dust.’
While Mr Weeks remained concerned about the dust around him, he had no idea that it could cause him so much harm in the future and was stunned when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma eight months ago.
‘I was given three months to live but the doctors said I could exceed that which I have. But I can feel myself getting worse every day. I am in constant pain and always feel sick.
‘I used to love gardening but now I can’t do that any more, I have just had to leave my garden.’
Mr Weeks is now pursuing a civil claim against him former employer who he believes should have done more to protect him and other staff members. His legal team are keen to speak to anyone who worked at the armoury in the 1970s and 80s.
His lawyer, Mark Luxton, from Slater and Gordon, said: ‘Being diagnosed with a terminal condition like mesothelioma is devastating for anybody. But to know that you tried to raise the alarm about the dangers of working around asbestos has been particularly hard for Mr Weeks to deal with.
‘At that time in his life, my client was working for the government and it’s vital that somebody takes responsibility for what has happened to him.’
Anybody who worked at the Bedenham Armoury in the 1970s or 80s can call Mr Luxton on 0207 092 2818 or email email@example.com