Asbestos disease sufferer in SOS plea to former workmates
Monday 10th October 2016 @ 18:55 by Nigel P.
Ashton Denton & Audenshaw Health News
Tony John Vince former worker at Richard Whiffen Ltd. who has now developed a terminal lung disease linked to exposure to asbestos

Tony John Vince former worker at Richard Whiffen Ltd. Who has now developed a terminal lung disease linked to exposure to asbestos

A Denton grandfather diagnosed with a crippling lung disease needs help from former Richard Whiffen Ltd workers, who may know who insured the now defunct Ashton-under-Lyne manufacturer during the 1960s.

Following his exposure to the health threatening mineral, asbestos as a young worker, while working as an apprentice electrician for the firm’s maintenance department, Tony Vince now suffers diffuse pleural thickening.
The condition is often caused by exposure to asbestos dust and results in a hardening of the lining of the lung, which makes breathing difficult.

There is no cure for the disease and it can make everyday tasks impossible.

Tony sometimes has to rely on his partner, Pauline, to help him walk from one room to the next. He suffers from regular chest infections, chest pain, a persistent cough and severe shortness of breath.

Tony, now aged 69, tells how the disease crept up on him after leading a healthy life he says: “I have always remained fit and active, but towards the end of 2014 I became very short of breath after physical activity.”

After many hospital visits, scans and tests, I was finally diagnosed with the disease in October 2015.”

Tony has since been through a procedure to drain fluid and seal his right lung with talc. The treatments have helped a little but chest infections are a regular problem.

Tony adds: “During periods when I am suffering from a chest infection I require assistance from Pauline, even to put my socks on! -We’ve had to have a seat fitted to the shower and I need help getting to and from the bathroom.”

Tony  was based in Richard Whiffen Limited’s Wellington Road site in Ashton and sometimes at a second site on Cavendish Street and Blandford Street.

The firm manufactured sheet mica and ceramic pot insulators used for electric pylons.

Tony recalls: “It was a varied job that included repairing plant and machinery equipment as well as lagging the factory’s network of asbestos insulated pipes.

“I used to mix the asbestos for re-lagging in a bucket in a small six-foot by six-foot room. It had one small window, it was bit like a toilet, it was filthy, dusty and dirty.

“The factory buildings and plant room contained a lot of asbestos and unfortunately it was often in a very poor condition – cracked and flaking off.

We’d have to remove the older asbestos insulation with claw hammers and chisels.

I also remember we had to take out a large Lancaster boiler, we were all enveloped in the asbestos dust and inhaled it as we worked.

There were no masks provided or any breathing apparatus.”

Mervin Smith, an asbestos-disease specialist working on behalf of Tony said: “We need to trace the company that provided employee liability insurance for Richard Whiffen Limited so Tony and Pauline can get the support they need to help them cope with a life-changing lung disease.

“Asbestos related diseases take decades to develop, which often denies hardworking people like Tony the justice they deserve.

“The time lapse makes it difficult for victims to secure financial support when their employer has gone out of business and no insurer can be traced.”

At the time insurance companies often failed to keep proper records of their clients going forward into the future, especially during the period of transition onto computers, so that many years later, connecting workers such as Tony to the relevant insurance company is proving difficult.

Mr Smith explained “ This poor practice by the insurance companies has led to many asbestos victims suffering uncompensated.

“Insurers gained financially from the premiums they received from employer’s liability policies sold, but they’ve not had to pay out damages to asbestos victims due to their own failure to keep records.

“To help Tony and his family, we need to hear from former workers and especially those who held senior positions with Richard Whiffen Limited during the 1960s and 1970s. They could have vital information about the company’s insurance details and could really help improve Tony’s quality of life.”

Anyone with information should contact Mervin Smith at Birchall Blackburn Law on Freephone 0800 614 722 or email [email protected]

Mr Smith promises that details will remain confidential.

The Tameside Reporter carried out some investigations of its own and discovered the company was first incorporated and commenced trading in 1921, but then stopped trading in any meaningful way by 1987 and was swallowed up by the US giant General Electrics Company.

The Richard Whiffen company name existed as active company until 2001 when it ceased trading altogether.