Family’s plea for help following Sheffield steelworker’s asbestos cancer death

The children of a former Sheffield steelworks employee are appealing to their dad’s former workmates for help following his death from asbestos-related cancer.

By Lloyd Bent
Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 1:58 pm

James Baxter, known as Jim, died of mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer linked to exposure to the hazardous material, often decades previously.

Following the father-of-three, grandfather-of-six and great grandfather-of-five’s death, Jim’s family instructed expert asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate where he was exposed to the asbestos that claimed his life. An inquest concluded that Jim, 81, of Killamarsh, died of an industrial disease.

Jim’s family and their legal team are now marking Workers’ Memorial Day by appealing for information about his working career. They are particularly keen to hear from anyone who worked at steel and engineering works company Arthur Balfour and Co Ltd which had laboratories in Greenland Road and Wicker as well as a foundry in Shepcote Lane.

James Baxter

Jim worked as an analytical chemist for the company - which later became known as Balfour Darwin’s Limited and Edgar Allen Balfour Special Steels Limited - between 1959 and 1979.

Simone Hardy, the specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Jim’s family, said: “Jim’s death is yet another stark reminder of the terrible legacy that asbestos has created.

“Understandably his family remain heartbroken by their loss and have a number of questions about how he was exposed to this devastating material.

James Baxter

“Workers’ Memorial Day is an important time to remember those who’ve lost their lives through work and warn others of the risk posed by asbestos.

“While nothing can make up for their loss we’re determined to provide Jim’s family with the answers they deserve.

"Any information about the working conditions Jim faced during his time at Arthur Balfour could prove vital in securing Jim’s family with the answers and closure they deserve.”

Jim had two daughters Suzanne, 50, Jane, 58, and a son, James, 59.

Jim joined Arthur Balfour after completing his National Service where he served as a paramedic with the Royal Army Medical Corps, mainly based in Hong Kong.

Jim’s role was to analyse the carbon content of steel. Part of the role would require him to place steel into furnaces to measure the quality of steel. He would also pour granules, which he believed could have been made from asbestos, into scientific apparatus which would then test the carbon content of steel by the speed at which carbon was absorbed.

Jim was predominantly based at the Greenland Road site but would travel to the firm’s other locations. He would also be required to walk through the furnace and melting area of the company’s foundry to collect samples.

Jim went on to work for another steelworks as well as in a school before his retirement in 2003.

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2019. He moved into Suzanne’s home so she could help care for him. He was transferred to Ashgate Hospice where he died in February 2020.

Suzanne said: “When we were told that dad had cancer it was a real shock. Before his diagnosis we hadn’t even heard of mesothelioma but now we know of the asbestos related cause of this preventable cancer.

“It was really a difficult few months seeing dad’s condition deteriorate. He’d always been independent but that all changed. He had to move in so I could help care for him.

“It was terrible for us all to see him towards the end as the cancer got the better of him.

“Dad loved nothing better than spending time with his family. We’re devastated that he’s no longer in our lives.

“We know nothing can make up for what’s happened but still having so many questions about how he was exposed to asbestos makes coming to terms with dad’s death even harder."

Anyone with information about the conditions Jim faced at Arthur Balfour should contact Simone Hardy at Irwin Mitchell on 0114 274 4321 or email [email protected]

Workers’ Memorial Day is on 28 April.