A former civil servant from Oldham, who has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, is appealing to her former colleagues to come forward with any information they have about the presence of asbestos during her time working for the Inland Revenue.

Hazel Hewitt, 76, has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a devastating and fatal form of cancer caused by breathing in asbestos dust.

Mrs Hewitt worked as a civil servant for the Inland Revenue from 1978 to 1995, at the Phoenix House office in Oldham. She suspects that she might have been exposed to asbestos during computerisation works in 1981, which saw a number of contractors drilling holes through walls, floors and ceiling tiles to install electrical wiring over a 12-month period. This would cause significant amounts of dust to settle on her desk and clothes.

Hazel Hewitt in earlier life

“The dust was everywhere,” she said. “I’d have to wipe my work area down several times a day, and when the workers did an overnight shift, I’d often get to work and have an inch of dust settled on the desk. In hindsight, this was clearly not good for anyone’s health – but I would have never expected that this might lead to a lung disease.”

She is now urging her former colleagues to come forward and contact Thompsons Solicitors if they have information about the use of asbestos at the offices.

Mrs Hewitt continued: “I’d be hugely grateful to anyone who could come forward with information about asbestos use at Phoenix House, especially during the renovation works in 1981, and help me get some clarity on exactly how I came to be exposed to asbestos.”

On average, 2,500 lives are lost to mesothelioma in the UK each year, many as a result of exposure to asbestos decades before.

Between 2015 and 2018, Thompsons' asbestos and mesothelioma solicitors secured more than £28.6 million for asbestos disease victims in the North West.

Paula Wrigley, of Thompsons Solicitors, added: “Hazel’s story is a sad example of the widespread impact asbestos has had on people across the country. Asbestos diseases are largely seen as diseases that affect men working in heavy industry, but this simply isn’t the case.

“In fact, Health and Safety Executive (HSE)[1] statistics from last year found that one in six mesothelioma-related deaths in Great Britain are women, with those in administrative occupations making up the majority of the annual female deaths for mesothelioma.

“Hazel would have worked with a significant number of people during her time at Phoenix House, therefore we are hopeful that someone can come forward with information that can help us pursue a legal case on her behalf.”

If you have any information about the use of asbestos at the Inland Revenue office at Phoenix House, Oldham, contact Paula Wrigley on 0151 224 1608 or paulawrigley@thompsons.law.co.uk.


[1] Mesothelioma statistics for Great Britain, 2019. Released 30 October 2019 http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/mesothelioma/mesothelioma.pdf