Retired sound engineer, 81, sues ITV 'after being exposed to asbestos at Southbank studios'

Tristan Kirk
·3-min read
Lynne Cameron/PA
Lynne Cameron/PA

A retired sound engineer is suing ITV over alleged exposure to asbestos at the company’s former Southbank studios after being told he has just weeks to live.

John Sanders says he inhaled toxic fibres during the creation of TV studios and he claims he handled “dusty” sacks of asbestos during more than 20 years of service.

The landmark building, on the banks of the Thames and known simply as The London Studios, was home to some of ITV’s most popular shows including Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Good Morning Britain, and the Jonathan Ross Show.

Mr Sanders claims he was also exposed to asbestos while working on upgrade work at Wembley Studios, and has now lodged a claim for at least £50,000 in damages.

The 81-year-old has now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibres, Simon Kilvington QC told the High Court in a written claim against ITV.

“(His) life expectancy was put at about six months in May 2020”, he said.

Mr Sanders was employed by ITV’s predecessor, London Weekend Television, from the late 1960s until the early 1990s, reaching the senior post of Telecoms Manager.

Mr Kilvington said Mr Sanders worked on the creation of the London Studios – then known as Kent House – and was “working alongside people who were drilling through panels in order to feed the cables in”.

“The panels that they were drilling through were asbestos insulation board and that he was exposed to the asbestos dust and fibre released from that work,” he said.

“The claimant himself would handle the sacks of asbestos. They were made of a hessian-type of material and were dusty to handle. As well as the dust released by normal handling of the sacks, they would often tear on sharp edges and when they were packed tightly in small spaces, releasing further asbestos dust and fibre.”

He argued Mr Sanders was “not warned about the dangers of exposure to asbestos dust and fibre and was not provided with and/or trained in the use of any or any adequate respiratory protective equipment.”

Mr Sanders says he has undergone chemotherapy and suffered weight loss, chest pain, shortness of breath since the diagnosis in 2018.

The London Studios was closed in April 2018, with many of ITV’s top shows switching production to the former BBC Television Centre in White City.

In its defence to the claim, ITV said Mr Sanders must prove to the court that his illness was caused by exposure to asbestos during his work.

“It is not admitted that (he) was exposed to the alleged or injurious quantities of asbestos during the course of his employment by the defendant”, said the TV company’s barrister Matthew Boyle.

“The chronology of the claimant’s alleged exposure to asbestos is not entirely clear. It appears that much of the alleged exposure was probably in the late 1960s.

“In the circumstances it is not admitted that the defendant ought to have foreseen that the circumstances of the claimant’s work, if proved, would give rise to a relevant risk of injury.”

The claim has been lodged at the High Court, but has not yet come before a judge.

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