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Widow makes workers' safety plea

Published: 7 May 2012 09:300 comments

THE widow of a man from the Borders who died from cancer caused by exposure to asbestos has called on employers to make their workers' safety the number one priority.

Walter Turnbull pictured on his 80th birthday.

It follows the revelation that recent figures show significant numbers of people are being killed because of 'basic failings' in health and safety.

Devoted husband, father-of-four, grandfather and great grandfather Walter Turnbull died of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, in December last year, aged 83.

He was exposed to the deadly dust while working as an engineer at Dingleton Hospital in Melrose and Bangour Hospital in West Lothian in the 1950s and 1960s. He carried out boiler repairs and overhauls of the boiler and pipe work systems which involved the removal of asbestos lagging.

Originally from Hawick, Walter died while Irwin Mitchell was investigating the working conditions at the places where he worked. His widow Margaret is continuing the battle for justice in his name. She said: "To have my husband taken away from us because of illness he suffered while carrying out his day to day work was just devastating.

"He was never given any warnings about the dangers of asbestos, and never provided with any masks to stop him inhaling the dust but when he got home from work he would be covered head to toe in dust. It was impossible to avoid it.

"I hope Workers Memorial Day reminds employers of the need to protect their workers from any dangers to avoid unnecessary injuries or illness from just doing your job. Sadly nothing can bring my husband back but I just hope things can be improved so that others do not have to suffer the pain of losing a family member just because of the work they carried out."

Latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that there were 15 fatal workplace accidents in the Scotland in 2010/11 with hundreds more dying as a result of industrial illness such as the asbestos related mesothelioma.

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