Man remembered for love of job that killed him as Worksafe calls for better protection of employees

WorkSafe is calling for better protection for workers to prevent cancers caused on the job.

A study has revealed hundreds of Kiwis die each year from work-related health issues.

James Jeromson was a marine engineer in the 1950s but he didn't know the risk his job posed.

His son David says he spoke fondly of his time at sea.

"The irony and tragedy is such that, that is in fact what caused his death," he told Newshub. 

The asbestos he was exposed to in the engine rooms caused the mesothelioma cancer which cut his life short many years later at the age of 60.

"And we have since missed decades of his presence, grandchildren, it's such a shame," says David Jeromson.

The family won a landmark case against his former employer, Shell Tankers UK, and opened the way for others exposed to asbestos.

WorkSafe says we're much more likely to die from a work-related disease than a workplace accident.

"For every person who dies suddenly at work there's another 15 who are dying at home or in hospital many years later because their health has been damaged by work," says Jude Urlich, WorkSafe General Manager Strategy and Performance.

WorkSafe says an estimated 750-900 people die from work-related health issues in New Zealand each year.

Approximately 250 deaths are work-related lung cancers, 90 deaths are from asbestos-related mesothelioma, and 25 breast cancer deaths can be linked to the ill effects of shift work.

WorkSafe wants better prevention.

"Diesel, silica dust, even the sun, not being adequately protected while you're working is going to have an impact further down the track," says Ms Urlich.

Cancer caused by work costs New Zealand $320-million-dollars a year.

But the true cost is to families, like the Jeromsons.

"It's sad for him to have missed that part of his life, he was a good man, " says David Jeromson, "We just miss him."

The saddest part, he says, is that it could have been avoided.