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Dust to dust: Oral testimonies of asbestos-related disease on Clydeside

McIvor, Arthur and Johnston, R. (2001) Dust to dust: Oral testimonies of asbestos-related disease on Clydeside. Oral History, 29 (2). pp. 48-61. ISSN 0143-0955

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Abstract

This article investigates the personal experience of occupational disease in the industrial conurbation of Clydeside, as recounted by interviews with 31 asbestos-disease victims. We examine exposure to asbestos in the workplace and the prevailing 'machismo' work culture of the shipyards and building sites in which high levels of danger were accepted as part of the 'natural order' of things. The final section discusses the impact of occupational disease on people's lives. The oral testimony for Scotland further demonstrates the irresponsible behaviour of the industry and, importantly, the limited effectiveness of the legislation which failed to protect workers from danger prior to the 1970s. There was a wide gap between legal requirements and regulations, and actual workplace practice. Oral history also illuminates the contested and often painful struggles over compensation and the way in which industrial disability seriously prescribed lifestyles, invariably led directly to social exclusion and how people coped with trauma and premature death.