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John Taylor

John Taylor was a keen sportsman all his life. Always fit and active, he was a natural competitor. His was always the first name down on the team sheet and he was renowned locally both as a cricketer and a low handicap golfer.

But John was also an electrician whose working life spanned 38 years from apprenticeship at the age of 15 to more office bound work as an Electrical Maintenance Planner in his later career. As a qualified and experienced tradesman, he thought he was taking every caution when it came to safety at work. Yet, his job had hidden health risks that were to prove the final test to John's well-known fighting spirit.

Four years ago, at the age of 63, John sadly died from mesothelioma, caused by breathing in asbestos dust years earlier as he worked in attics and other confined areas where electrical cables run alongside asbestos-clad pipework.

John was a forward-looking, enthusiastic individual, which is why his wife, Joyce, would like his death to have a positive effect, by serving as a warning to others. She has joined in an initiative to help tradesmen, and particularly young tradesmen just starting out on their working lives, avoid the dangers of asbestos.

'Asbestos - the hidden killer' is the Health and Safety Executive's campaign aimed at young tradesmen who know that asbestos is dangerous, but don't believe they are at risk.

Joyce Taylor who lives in Appletree Village, York says:

"Everyone should know more about this disease and understand the risks they are facing. Young workers in particular seem to have no idea - they think that the disease holds no dangers for them but the reality is you just don't know who will be affected, or when."

"It can take years to develop after the asbestos dust has been breathed in, many tradesmen are not worried about the consequences because at the time they don't feel that dust is doing any damage, it doesn't hurt them then but kills them years later. My husband was enjoying life to the full and was extremely fit and active - in fact, with his usual determination, he was still playing golf competitively up to a few months after his diagnosis."

"Managers do have a duty to look after their staff, and that is obviously something they should be taking seriously, but workers whether they are employed or self-employed should also should be taking responsibility for themselves by making sure they are fully aware of dangers posed by asbestos in their working lives."

John consulted his doctor in June 2003, concerned at his sudden breathlessness, and the diagnosis of mesothelioma followed quickly after a visit to the hospital.

Says Joyce:

"Our first reaction was muted because we did not really know anything about this disease, but when it was properly explained it was a dreadful shock."

"But John was not a 'why me?' sort of person and he did not waste precious time moaning or complaining. We quickly pulled together and drew strength and comfort from our two daughters and their families. John really enjoyed time with his grandchildren, always happy to encourage their interest in sport by kicking a football around the garden, and we have some very happy memories which are important for us to look back on as a family."

"There will always be a real sadness, though, at important family times like our daughter's 40th birthday and the christening of our youngest grandchild, Ellie, a celebration which I attended alone knowing she and her Grandad had missed knowing each other."

"My message to younger workers is this disease is avoidable - look to your own futures and take action now. Tradesmen owe it to themselves, their friends and families to find out more and avoid the dangers of asbestos".

Updated 2012-10-04