In the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, South Australia built three new power stations. The Osborne B Power Station was built in the site of the Osborne A Power Station in Port Adelaide in the late 1940s and 1950s. Soon after, the Torrens Island Power Station was built. Once it was completed the Port Augusta or Playford Power Station was built. Asbestos was extensively used throughout the power stations.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of workers were exposed to large quantities of asbestos dust when they installed and sprayed asbestos lagging on pipes, boilers, turbines and other heated vessels during the construction phase of each of the power stations. Many thousands more were exposed to asbestos dust and fibre while the power stations operated and, in particular, during repair and maintenance work.
Turner Freeman has acted for many workers at each of the Osborne, Torrens Island and Port Augusta Power Stations as well as many power stations elsewhere around Australia including in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. These workers have been fitters, laggers, boiler makers, metal workers, riggers, trade assistants and many other tradesmen and labourers.
Roger Doman worked with asbestos for more than 15 years. As an employee of Bells Asbestos, he lagged, sprayed and made asbestos mats, and was considered an expert and one of the best in his trade. He worked at the Osborne Power Station.
He and his workmates stripped asbestos insulation with hand tools. “The stripping work was very dusty for the lagging was dry and it was crumbly and it fell off”, he told the Court. No masks were worn. “The re-lagging was also dusty and shaping the ‘lobster back ends’ was done with hand saws”. Mixing the asbestos composition (a loose asbestos powder mixed with water) was also dusty before the water was applied.
Roger Doman never wore a mask when mixing composition, and only occasionally wore a mask when spraying the asbestos fibre.
The masks “were completely inadequate, the cartridges became clogged with fibre and they were unusable even after a few hours”.
About the time he turned 50, Roger Doman decided to study art and realize a long dream of becoming an art teacher. He completed his advanced diploma course in applied and visual arts with merit, and wanted to go on to do a Bachelor of Applied and Visual Arts, but became too ill. He found he was becoming exhausted and found it harder and harder to breathe.
By the time he saw his doctor he needed three litres of fluid drained from his abdomen. He was diagnosed with a peritoneal mesothelioma. Chemotherapy was started, but it was enormously debilitating and Mr. Doman became sicker and sicker and died.
Roger Doman commenced and completed proceedings during his lifetime. He was awarded a substantial six-figure sum by the Court.
Roy Boyle’s first job after leaving school in 1951 was as an apprentice fitter for the Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA) at the Osborne Power Station. At the time A Station was operational and B Station was under construction.
In his apprenticeship he worked fitting flanges. To do this he first had to brush off the asbestos lagging on the valve faces. He used a wire brush, emery paper and an air hose, which produced dust in the air around him.
Roy then worked in the turbine gang. The turbines were lagged with asbestos insulation. During shutdowns Roy removed the steel plates covering the turbines, thereby exposing the turbines and the asbestos lagging around the turbines. Laggers then removed the asbestos lagging. Roy was nearby on occasions when this was done. As the steel plates were removed the sea, between the turbine and the asbestos lagging, was broken, causing dust from the lagging to be released in the air. Roy also unbolted the steam pipe work from the turbines, which involved removing flanges lagged with asbestos.
Roy became a plant operator. He continued to work around removing and replacing asbestos insulation from turbines.
In 1972 Roy transferred to the Torrens Island Power Station where he worked in both A and B Stations, initially as a unit controller operating a boiler, turbine and generator. Again, he was exposed to asbestos lagging that was removed and replaced from the turbines during shutdowns and maintenance work. He retired from ETSA in 1992 as a shift supervisor.
In 2000, Roy noticed that he had developed a persistent dry cough. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He underwent twelve sessions of chemotherapy, until he was no longer in a state for further chemotherapy. He had numerous CT scans. He had an operation to drain fluid. He suffered badly from nausea and other symptoms.
Turner Freeman Lawyers brought proceedings against Roy’s employer, and the manufacturer of the asbestos material he was exposed to. The Court awarded him a substantial amount of money.