Sheffield Council facing £200,000 claim over demolition worker's asbestos death

The daughter of Britain's 'first' female demolition worker is taking Sheffield Council to court over asbestos poisoning.

Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 2:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 2:20 pm
Tina Hull and her daughter Hannah

Dorothy Hull became a poster girl for the industry during the 60s and 70s, achieving local and national fame for bringing a touch of glamour to what was then a male-dominated profession more associated with sweat and grime.

She died in January last year, aged 77, of mesothelioma - a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Demolition worker Dorothy Hull at work

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She has filed a claim at the High Court against the council, accusing it of being 'negligent and.or in breach of statutory duty', and seeking more than £200,000 in damages.

The claim lists ADH Demolition, which has since been dissolved, as a second defendant, since although Dorothy ran the firm with Archie they were also technically employees of the limited company and could claim any damages off their personal liability insurance.

Dorothy died last year, aged 77

"My mum was only 77 when she died, and she was still on a treadmill every day in her 70s. She would still be here if the council had taken its duty of care seriously."

Dorothy and Archie worked from 1962 to the late 80s, clearing Sheffield's slums and taking on other major jobs like razing the abattoir on Cricket Inn Road, just outside the city centre.

Asbestos licensing regulations only came into force in the UK in 1984 but the dangers of working with the substance, which was widely used in buildings due to its strength and heat resistance, became apparent long before that.

When the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) was formed in 1974 one of its firsts tasks was to investigate the hazards posed by asbestos, though its use was not banned in this country until 1999.

For Tina, who is being represented by Irwin Mitchell, suing the council is about more than the money.

She believes it will open the door for many more claims, not just from other demolition workers but from members of the public who were not protected when buildings were being ripped down around her.

But she also hopes it will raise public awareness of just how deadly asbestos is, and how it remains a lurking danger in many homes, schools and other buildings constructed before 2000.

"Too many people still aren't aware of how dangerous it is, or assume it's only found in industrial properties," she said.

Asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers in the UK each year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is more than the number of people killed on our roads.

When materials containing asbestos are disturbed or damaged, harmful fibres are released into the air which can cause lethal diseases, the symptoms of which often only appear many years down the line when it is too late for anything to be done.

Bob Andrew, senior claims officer at Sheffield Council, said: "We are sorry to hear of the death of Dorothy Hull and our thoughts are with her family.

"We are aware of the claim from her daughter. Legal proceedings have been issued and we are investigating the claim."