A former London docker who contracted a disabling lung condition after being exposed to asbestos has received significant compensation.

The 69-year-old from South East London was employed under the National Dock Labour Board Scheme to work at a number of docks along the River Thames during the late 1960s.

He and other dockyard workers would regularly unload sacks of asbestos fibres from the ships entering London’s ports on the Union Castle Line. This was done by hand and without any form of protection to prevent the dockers from breathing in the toxic dust.

After beginning to experience breathing difficulties in 2009, the man sought medical attention to identify the root of his problems. Two years later, he was diagnosed with pleural thickening – a debilitating condition linked with the inhalation of asbestos – and today is constantly short of breath and reliant on oxygen treatment.

He contacted Thompsons Solicitors after being told by medical professionals that pleural thickening is often the result of occupational asbestos exposure.

After investigating his case, Thompsons successfully secured a provisional settlement from the National Dock Labour Board and Union Castle Line’s insurers, which will allow the man to make a further claim for compensation if he develops serious deterioration in his asbestos-related condition in the future.

Breathing difficulties were caused by asbestos

The dock worker said: “When I was first told that my breathing difficulties were caused by asbestos I didn’t immediately make the link with my work on the docks but then I realised I had actually come into contact with huge amounts of asbestos on a regular basis. Even on days when we weren’t unloading bags of the stuff, the cargo holds were full of asbestos dust which we had no protection from.

“My condition means I am virtually housebound and it is extremely frustrating to know that my employers failed to protect me from this known risk. I now worry that I’ll go onto develop a cancer like mesothelioma, so it was important to me to know I could claim further compensation in the future if my circumstances change, though this is of small comfort to my family and friends.”

Lorna Webster from Thompsons Solicitors added: “London dock workers were often exposed to asbestos in their jobs and it is only now, decades later, that the very extensive damage to their health is being diagnosed.

“At Thompsons we have dealt with thousands of asbestos compensation claims and we know just how important it is for people affected by asbestos to be able to secure the compensation they need now while preserving the right to claim further compensation if they develop other asbestos-related conditions later in life.”