THE wife of a former shipyard worker who died after being exposed to asbestos at work has launched a High Court claim in London for damages of more than £300,000.

Instrument technician Joseph Burns, 76, died from malignant mesothelioma caused by deadly asbestos dusts and fibres after years working at the Barrow shipyard, it is claimed in a writ just made publicly available.

Now his widow and executor Sandra Burns, 69, of Whitehaven, and joint executor Lisa Hodgson, of Whitehaven, have launched the claim against his former employer, BAE System Surface Ships Maritime.

The claim is for damages for Mrs Burns, who had been married to her husband for almost 50 years when he died. Mr Burns is described as a loving and loyal husband.

He worked at the Barrow yard between 1968 and 1974, initially as an instrument technician and then as a test engineer, and worked in the reactor rooms of submarines for the last two or three years of his employment, according to the writ.

He was exposed to asbestos used for insulation, and worked alongside laggers who used asbestos to lag pipework after mixing up asbestos paste with water and powder in bowls and buckets, the writ says.

This created large clouds of asbestos which he was unable to avoid breathing, and there were visible clouds of asbestos dust in the submarine, it is alleged.

It is claimed he was not given any proper protective equipment, instructions, warnings, or training about asbestos exposure.

Mr Burns started to feel unwell in September 2019, suffering with chest pain, and went to hospital in October 2019 where he had a CT scan which showed he was suffering from malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of his lungs.

He underwent a biopsy and a chest drain, but his condition is said to have been deteriorating, with his chest pain becoming worse, with shortness of breath and loss of weight. He died on November 27 2019 as a result of the disease.

If he had not contracted mesothelioma, he would have had a normal life expectancy, the court will hear.

His executors accuse BAE, successors to Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering, of negligence in failing to provide ventilation equipment or respiratory protection, failing to keep plant free from asbestos waste and dust, and failed to provide a safe workplace.

BAE also negligently required him to work alongside laggers, allowed clouds of asbestos dust to be present on submarines, failed to provide him with proper masks or breathing apparatus, and failed to minimise the risk of asbestos dust and fibres being liberated near him, it is alleged.