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Family of Harlow man killed by asbestos cancer seek further information from former colleagues at Key Glassworks

Health / Wed 6th Oct 2021 at 01:07pm

THE family of a Harlow father-of-two who died from asbestos-related cancer are continuing to appeal to his former workmates for information that may help determine how he fell ill.

Terry Coombes was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2019. A terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs, mesothelioma is most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos often decades previously.

He died in July last year, aged 82 years.

Prior to his death, Terry instructed asbestos-related disease experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness and where he could have come into contact with the hazardous substance. His daughters Paula Jewell, 56 years, and Julie Pope, 59 years, are now continuing with the investigation alongside the legal team.

Following an appeal last year, the lawyers were provided with potential information regarding Key Glassworks in Harlow, where Terry worked for a period around 1966. They are now keen to hear from anyone else that may have additional details on the conditions Terry faced there.

Rosemary Giles, the specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Terry’s loved ones, said: “Terry’s family are still devastated after losing him last year and are determined to honour his memory by getting the answers he sought before he died.”

“Following our previous appeal, we are grateful for the additional information that has been provided to us with regards to Terry’s employment, and we would appreciate any further details that could help us determine where Terry could have been exposed to asbestos.”

Terry told his legal team he thought his employment with Key Glassworks – later known as United Glass – took place from 1966 for around 14 months. He worked as a machine operator, assisting in moulding liquid glass into bottles and jars. He recalled the jars and bottles would be put on a long table.

Another former employee of Key Glassworks in Harlow explained they used 24 Lehrs glassmaking machines, which “stretched about two-thirds of the length of the factory.” The machines had mesh conveyor belts, with most covered by panelling on the top and sides. He recalled the panelling had metal on either side with board insulation in the middle, which he now believes to have been made from asbestos of “a minimum of half an inch to an inch thick” with “quite a soft consistency you could break by hand.” He added that if there was a jam or fault with the machine the engineers would sometimes have to remove the covers, exposing the asbestos insulation board. Replacement boards were kept in cages and would often have to be trimmed to fit. This would cause asbestos fibres and dust to be released.

The furnaces for producing the molten glass, which were located high up at the back of the factory, were also thought to have been lagged with asbestos. The former employee told the lawyers that one furnace would be rebuilt each year. It would often take months and would be carried out while everyone else was working in the factory space. He recalled it included the removal of asbestos lagging, and “the dust that was released into the factory air and also the dust created by the reapplying of the asbestos logging to the furnace would circulate in the air.”

As part of the production process, the legal team were told that fans under the conveyor belt were used to cool the glass, which would cause the “dust in the factory air to recirculate.” Any broken items would be dry swept with a broom, again causing the dust to be “disturbed.”

Terry’s daughter Paula said: “When Dad was diagnosed, it was a huge shock to us all, and then to lose him last year was absolutely heartbreaking.

“To then learn that his work could have been to blame was another blow.

“While nothing can bring him back, we are so thankful for any information that could help us get the answers Dad deserved.”

Anyone with information which may assist this case is asked to contact Rosemary Giles at Irwin Mitchell’s Cambridge office on 01223 791810 or e-mail [email protected]

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