Asbestos exposure killed St Albans lagger

Hatfield Coroner's Court

Hatfield Coroner's Court - Credit: Archant

Decades after working in boiler maintenance for the British Merchant Navy, a man has died after being exposed to asbestos.

The family of Samuel Dickson, who died on July 15 this year at the Orchard Nursing Home, Camp Road in St Albans, told an inquest last Thursday (17) that he was known for ‘lighting up a room’.

The 85 year old, formerly from Newtonabbey in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, had stripped asbestos lagging from pipes with a hacksaw while working in the Merchant Navy during the 1950s.

Herts Coroner Edward Thomas ruled that Mr Dickson died from mesothelioma “as a result of his occupation – it is an industrial disease”.

Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelial cells.

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Mr Dickson had developed tumours in both lungs and in his oesophagus which, Mr Thomas said, “was caused by exposure to asbestos at work”.

The inquest was told how before his death, Mr Dickson had described walking on asbestos and that there had been, ‘dust everywhere; it looked like snow’ which had settled upon his clothing.

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His role involved keeping the area tidy, sweeping up after the lagging had been removed which, Mr Thomas said, “would have resulted in direct contact with asbestos.

“There was no protective clothing in those days. He had further contact [with asbestos] as a fitter with the electricity services in Belfast, in power stations, where he was hands-on, working with asbestos … there were no precautions taken.”

It was not until last year that Mr Dickson began feeling more tired than usual – prior to that he was a fit man who often walked three miles a day.

The inquest heard that people would often comment on his good level of fitness despite being aged in his 80s.

A family member described him as ‘lighting up a room’ whenever he entered one.

He had moved to the St Albans nursing home earlier this year.

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