Can former Sheffield Public Works Department employees help asbestosis victim

Posted: 11th Dec 15 1:55 PM

The family of a retired Sheffield carpenter who died of a lung disease caused by asbestos is appealing for his former colleagues from the Sheffield Public Works Department to help investigate his death.

Derek Cousins developed asbestosis during his retirement after breathing in asbestos dust and fibres 20 to 40 years earlier while employed as a joiner with the Sheffield Public Works Department.

Asbestosis affects people exposed to high levels of asbestos over many years. Once inhaled, the asbestos fibres lodge in the lungs and permanently damage the air sacs that supply oxygen to the blood stream.  In serious cases it can severely restrict the sufferer’s breathing and leaves them suffering breathlessness, chest pains and coughing after only gentle activity.

With the help of the National Asbestos Helpline, Derek’s nephew, David Cousins is appealing to his uncle’s former colleagues within the Sheffield Public Works Department to come forward with information about how and when Derek was exposed to asbestos.

Derek was employed by the Sheffield Public Works Department from 1973 through to his retirement in 1991. As a joiner, Derek worked in schools and hospitals where asbestos materials are still frequently found.

David says: “Uncle Derek knew that he’d been exposed to asbestos and that it would catch up with him in the end. I talked to him on many occasions about his exposure – mainly in local schools – when he worked for the Sheffield Public Works Department. I particularly remember him talking about asbestos and working in a large school in Meadowhead

“He was a popular man and a regular church goer, but by the time the lung disease had taken hold he was almost unrecognisable and living in a nursing home. In August of last year he was diagnosed and less than three months later he’d gone.”

Colin Tunstall, from the National Asbestos Helpline, says: “To help get justice for Derek’s death and secure his family’s future, we need to hear from anyone who may have worked with him. They could have vital information about where Derek was exposed to the deadly dust and fibres.

“Asbestos related diseases take decades to develop, which often denies hardworking people the justice they deserve. It can be very difficult to find former workers and colleagues because they have moved on or, in many cases, also died from past asbestos exposure. It makes investigating their deaths very difficult.”

Anyone who worked at the Sheffield Public Works Department between 1973 and 1990 and remembers Derek Cousins is asked to contact Colin Tunstall at the National Asbestos Helpline on freephone 0800 043 6635 or email Your details will remain confidential.