Did you work in Devonport Dockyard from 1970-1986?

Did you work in Devonport Dockyard from 1970-1986?

Devonport Dockyard former electrician seeks help from former colleagues to raise awareness of dangers from chemicals and carcinogenic substances used in Dockyard.

Former Devonport Dockyard electrician Graham Bacon was diagnosed with bladder cancer in February 2018. He worked at the Dockyard from 1970 to 1986.

As an electrician Graham, along with many others, would be working all over the yard but especially in the pickling yard, galvanising shop and pipe shop where he would be working above pickling baths, which he believes contained either hydrofluoric acid or nitric acid which would have been used to strip the metal down. He notes that the pickling yard, galvanising shop and pipe shop were all located within one area of the yard and were not sealed off in any way from each other, with employees being required to walk through the pickling yard and galvanising shop to access the large pipe shop where many people worked. When the metal would be dipped in Graham saw bubbles rising, like those seen coming from a crab when you remove it from the water. These bubbles would pop at the surface and release a highly flammable gas into the air.

In the galvanising shop Graham would be working above the pickling baths that contained lead and other chemicals used in the process of galvanising the clean pipework for the use back on ships. In the pipe shop he would be working above active welders who would be fabricating pipework releasing fumes which would rise up to where he was working on the cranes above them. He would be working above them for whole days at a time maintaining the cranes and replacing the lighting. The welders were provided with masks and breathing apparatus, but Graham was simply told that as an electrician he didn’t need a mask.

Graham’s last role in the Dockyard was working in the pre-heating department on board submarines where he would be fitting heating pads to the metal to prepare it for when the welders started their shift. He would be working the night shift in this job alongside painters using industrial paints. The painters would be spraying the paint whilst Graham would have to walk through the compartments to check on the heating pads. He describes how the air would be thick with the paint fumes. Again, the painters were provided with masks to wear but Graham and others in his role; although working in the same area were not provided with a mask.

Graham instructed Dean Cruickshanks, Head of the Industrial Disease department at Wolferstans Solicitors, to bring a claim. He explained how his working environment was toxic with the air around him full of fumes from the chemicals being used. He recalled whilst working in the nuclear reactor department he was told after only 3 weeks that he had reached his limit of exposure to radiation and just deployed to work in a different area.

Graham was never provided with any protective equipment, training or information as to what chemicals he was being exposed to by the Ministry of Defence. At the time Graham and his colleagues laughed about possibly getting a third ear but now looking back he is saddened that this lack of information and lack of protection is the likely cause of him getting bladder cancer.

Graham and Dean would love to hear from anyone who would have worked as either a painter or welder in this period or indeed anyone who remembers working alongside Graham during his time at the dockyard as they are likely to have information that can help Graham support his recollection.

Please call Dean Cruickshanks on 01752 292235 if you might be able to help, or if you or a family member has been affected by chemical exposure.

Dean is an Associate Solicitor who specialises in industrial disease and asbestos litigation. Please also telephone for completely free initial advice if you are suffering symptoms due to exposure to asbestos or other harmful substances.

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