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Whyalla Shipyards and steelworks

The Whyalla Shipyards were among the largest shipyards in Australia, operating from 1941 to 1978. Over that time about 20,000 people worked there. Many of them were exposed to large quantities of asbestos dust and fibre. Many more were employed and exposed to asbestos while working at the Steelworks. Turner Freeman has acted for a large number of former workers from the Whyalla Shipyards and Steelworks in claims for damages arising from mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer, asbestosis and asbestos related pleural disease.

At the shipyards, asbestos was used in a variety of different ways.  Laggers were employed to insulate pipes and boilers on board ships and to spray asbestos fibre on bulkheads. Many workers were present when the asbestos was installed and sprayed. Others were exposed to asbestos when they removed the asbestos during refits and when carrying out repairs, or when working alongside others doing this work.

Geoffrey Pope

One of these workers, Geoffrey Pope, recalled having snowball fights with his friends while he worked using handfuls of asbestos fibre as they worked in the Whyalla shipyards.

Mr. Pope commenced working at the shipyards as an apprentice electrician in 1960. During his apprenticeship he worked on board ships, in engine rooms next to laggers who were installing asbestos insulation on pipes.

After completing his 5-year apprenticeship, Mr. Pope remained working at Whyalla in the steelworks until 1982. He worked with asbestos coated wires and cables, Zelomite sheets, switch gear, welding rods, asbestos matting, asbestos lagging and asbestos brake linings. Years later, Mr. Pope developed an inoperable lung cancer.  He needed morphine to help with the severe pain. Turner Freeman acted for Mr. Pope, and achieved a successful result for him.

Mr. S

Like Mr. Pope, Mr. S worked at the Whyalla Shipyards. This was his only job and he worked there, from the time he started his apprenticeship as a plumber in 1956, until 1983, aside from his time in the Army.

Most of his employment was spent working on the fitting out wharf. He worked onboard ships in the engine and boiler rooms, fitting pipes alongside laggers who were installing asbestos rope and pre-formed pipe sections as insulation on the pipes.  Dust from the laggers filled the air, and pieces of asbestos lagging were strewn on the floor. He also worked close by laggers spraying asbestos on the bulkheads of the accommodation areas.

Mr. S also used asbestos gloves and blankets when welding in the shipyards and in the steelworks, and also came into contact with Deep Six asbestos corrugated roofs and asbestos fibro sheets used in the buildings throughout the steelworks.

In August 2007 he experienced symptoms of shortness of breath and pain. Within weeks he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Turner Freeman acted for Mr. S in proceedings against his former employer in the District Court of South Australia. The proceedings settled for a confidential sum prior to trial.