Monday, March 4, 2024

Scaffolder diagnosed with terminal asbestos cancer appeals for help from workers based at Shell Haven Oil Refinery

A FORMER scaffolder battling terminal asbestos cancer is appealing for help to establish whether his illness stems from a clean-up operation following a huge fire at an Essex oil refinery.

Dave Bridgeman has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos often decades earlier.

Following his diagnosis in January this year, Dave, 72, supported by wife Barbara, 73, instructed expert asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether he was exposed during the course of his career.

The couple, of Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot, Devon, have now joined their legal team in appealing for help from Dave’s former colleagues about the working conditions he faced. They are particularly keen to hear from anyone who was based at the former Shell Haven Oil Refinery based on the Thames Estuary in Thurrock.

Dave was based at the site for approximately six to eight months in between 1973 and

  1. Employed by John Laing Construction Ltd, he erected scaffolding used to help with the demolition and rebuilding of the site following a blaze in November 1973.

Virginia Chalmers, the asbestos-related disease expert at Irwin Mitchell representing the family. said: “Mesothelioma is a terrible disease, the horrible effects of which often only become apparent many years after asbestos exposure has taken place.

“Dave and his family are devastated by his diagnosis and what it means for them. Understandably they have a number of questions about how his asbestos exposure took place. We are determined to provide him and his family with the answers they deserve.

“Any information about working conditions Dave faced whilst employed by John Laing and based at Shell Haven Oil Refinery could make all the difference in helping the family.”

Following the fire, Dave was based at Crude Distillation Unit Two at the site. He said the intensity of the blaze had left 10ft girders twisted like a paperclip.

Dave told his legal team that pipes that had been covered in asbestos lagging had been severely damaged by the fire and that the environment was extremely dusty. He had to erect scaffolding in and around the debris and was often covered in dust.

Dave was based at the site until 1974, the year in which he moved to Devon.

He continued working as a scaffolder for a few years before running his own businesses and then retiring in 2008.

Dave started to suffer with a shortness of breath last October. Following a number of tests, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in early January.

He said: “I’d been suffering with shortness of breath and even walking round the house was a struggle, but nothing prepared me for the news I had cancer. I’d not even heard of mesothelioma before my diagnosis.

“Before my diagnosis, I was pretty active for my age and was enjoying my retirement in our beautiful surroundings. I’m now very restricted in what I can do physically and I am more reliant on Barbara and my family for support.”

He added: “I remember working at the oil refinery and how much of a mess it was. There was debris everywhere and huge 10ft steel girders had been mangled and twisted like paperclips because of the heat of the fire. There was a great level of destruction and dust just seemed to hang in the air. It was really hard and dirty work.

“Because of my diagnosis I now have so many questions about what caused my illness. I’m unsure as to what the future will bring for me and my family but I feel that I at least deserve answers to my concerns.

“I’d be so grateful to anyone who came forward with any details. No matter how big or small, it could make all the difference to my family.”

Anyone with information about working conditions Dave faced while employed by John Laing Construction Ltd should contact Virginia Chalmers at Irwin Mitchell on 0117 926 1514 or email


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