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Coal workers vent anger; PUBLIC MEETING: Compensation claims discussed.

Byline: Cara Simpson

FORMER National Coal Board employees in Warwickshire gathered last night to discuss potential compensation claims against the firm for those who fear they could suffer workrelated cancer.

Scores of ex-workers for the company at its site in Ansley, near Nuneaton, gathered at the Chapel End Social Club, Nuneaton, to speak out about how they were exposed to asbestos at work.

Among them was the widow of blacksmith Frederick Reynolds, who died of the aggressive cancer mesothelioma in February, allegedly after being exposed to blue asbestos.

A coroner ruled he had been killed by an industrial illness.

The 69-year-old, of Atherstone, was the second person to die of the condition after working in the Ansley Workshops in Pipers Lane where the walls and ceilings were lined with the substance.

His widow Marjorie is taking the National Coal Board to court and hopes to win compensation on grounds of negligence.

She expressed her anger with the Board when she said: "This meeting is very important for everyone who worked at Ansley site and worked with the asbestos because they are at risk of getting cancer. We are doing this to help everyone who could be affected in future and I'm disgusted by the way that the National Coal Board is dealing with it. They're not taking responsibility." It was argued that more of Reynolds's colleagues could be struck down by the incurable cancer, which can develop up to 50 years after exposure to asbestos.

Angry employees gave testimonies about their experiences cleaning up the "blue dust" which fell on surfaces without knowing how dangerous it was.

Derek Marshall, aged 71, of Ansley, worked alongside Mr Reynolds and lives with the daily fear that he too could develop cancer.

He said: "I worked for the Coal Board for 26 years between 1960 and 1986.

"We had to clean blue asbestos off the floor and off our benches but we didn't know what it was. We were ignorant to the fact it was asbestos. It's frightening to think that I could also develop mesothelioma.

I've got 10 grandchildren but it's not the sort of thing you really want to discuss with your family."

Satinder Bains, a workplace illness specialist with law firm Irwin Mitchell, explained the details of the case and how they plan to take on the National Coal Board.

She said they are claiming for negligence because of a number of the Board's shortcomings, including the failure to provide workers with breathing apparatus, protective clothing and not informing employees of the dangers of asbestos..

More than 20 former employees have so far contacted her with information which could strengthen the case.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 3, 2009
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