Slow Death

by fortytwo6x7


The oxygen bottle

was smaller and lighter

than the ones he manhandled

as a youth

he remembered

trailing cutting gear

into the bowls of ships

swinging sledgehammers

gutting out scrap ships

or making good

clambering along perilous perches

he always thought

being killed at work

would be instantaneous


He adjusted the oxygen mask

and took another step


he would not make it to

normal retirement age

looking back

the “big money”

for working the dirty jobs

was not in reality “big”


why would he have had to work

seven days a week ?

the other realisation

was that he had been

dying for a living



Author Notes

When researching figures for asbestos deaths in the United Kingdom I found conflicting information. Firstly the Health and Safety Executive claim it is imposable to get accurate figures as they can not tell the difference between asbestos exposure and smoking, but they estimate it to be around 2000 deaths a year. However another page by the same executive leads to fatalities from mesothelioma. There are accurate figures for mesothelioma, 2101 men died from the condition in 2014. Cancer Research Uk say that mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to Asbestos, I believe this solid information is where they are getting there estimate from, however the reason the figures are not presented in a more straight forward manor and the Health and Safety Executive are scurrilously claiming the deaths of these men could be due to lifestyle choices is unclear.

In the same year (2014) there were 144 workplace fatalities, this tells us that the overwhelming majority of workplace deaths happen long after the person has left the job.

There is also a small but significant number of female fatalities of mesothelioma (414 in 2014) . Most of these contacted the condition by contact with their partners contaminated clothing. When it became apparent women and children were being affected by cross contamination of clothing the Health and Safety Executive took decisive action. Workplace (health safety and welfare) regulations mandate that clothing likely to be contaminated with dusts or chemicals must be laundered by the employer, there must be separate lockers provided and washing facilities provided to ensure the workplace hazard is restricted to the man working the job.

That this effort went into limiting exposure to the male workers and not removing the hazard leads me to believe the Health and Safety Executive have came to understand that when risk is necessary in order to complete a task, men are disposable.