Hemel Hempstead man died of industrial disease after 10 years of cutting asbestos sheets

John Perris.
John Perris.

The family of a man who died from asbestos poisoning are suing a firm that helped build the QE2 for compensation, an inquest heard.

John Perris spent 10 years cutting up and selling asbestos sheets that had been sold to his father Harry’s business by BXL Plastics in 1967, Herts Coroners Court heard.

A witness statement signed by Mr Perris five months before he died was read out to the court by assistant coroner for Herts Alison Grief.

It said that he was told the sheets were surplus materials from the building of the QE2 ocean liner, where BXL had a contract to create the external walls.

The statement said his father’s business, Perris Plastics, bought between 200 and 250 of the sheets, which measured eight feet by six feet.

He had to cut between 10 and 20 per cent of them in half before they were sold, it said, but the saw he used had no dust extractor.

Mr Perris’ statement said: “I remember the first time that we cut one of these sheets. The shutters of our warehouse were open and I was right next to the saw.”

The statement said no information was provided by the supplier about the dangers of asbestos or the importance of wearing a mask while cutting through it.

Mr Perris’ statement said: “The dust created a thick mist in the air and we all ran out coughing.”

The inquest heard on Wednesday that he had to open all of the windows and run out of the warehouse as soon as possible every time a sheet was cut.

It was 30 minutes before the dust in the air had even partially cleared. The work was only ever done at 4.30pm - to allow the air time to clear before the next working day.

Ms Grief ruled that Mr Perris’ death was the result of an industrial disease.

The 74-year-old was diagnosed with mesothelioma - a rare form of cancer most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos - on December 27 last year.

Ischaemic heart disease and chronic renal impairment were listed as contributory factors to Mr Perris’ death and Ms Grief said he had been a heavy smoker for many years.

He suffered from chest pain and breathlessness and died in the Hospice of St Francis, Northchurch, on June 23.

Mr Perris, of Westbrook Hay, Hemel Hempstead, and his sister bought their father’s business in 1974.

After the inquest, his wife Valerie, 74, said: “He enjoyed crosswords and any sort of puzzle and had a terrific brain.”

His daughter Angela, 44, said: “He was very lively and had a passion for golf and bridge. He was larger than life and the life and soul of the party.”