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The production of coke fuel was once a major part of UK industry, with many works operating across the country. Coke fuel workers were exposed to numerous toxic by-products which included dust, tar, oils and gases during production. Exposure to these toxic substances can cause a range of serious, and life threatening respiratory and skin illnesses.

Following a landmark case fought by our specialist team of industrial disease solicitors, former coke oven workers and their families are now claiming compensation for respiratory disease and lung cancer caused by working with the toxic by-products of coke fuel production. Hugh James was appointed as lead solicitor in a group action brought by hundreds of former workers and their families who worked at the Phurnacite plant in South Wales. The successful outcome of this case has had implications for former British Coal and British Steel coke oven workers who are now claiming coke oven worker compensation.

The High Court has appointed Hugh James as one of the lead solicitors in two separate group actions for conditions associated with employment at coke works operated by British Coal and British Steel.

Group litigation enables a group of cases to be considered on the basis of a selection of test cases. The judgments in these test cases then act as a guide in the resolution of other cases within the group.

The deadline for British Steel and British Coal coke oven workers to register claims has now passed. Please contact our coke oven team should have any queries.

Bruce and Eddie’s story

Key contact

Kathryn Singh


Kathryn is a partner and head of the Workplace Disease and Illness department which is ranked as a top tier firm for the work carried out. Kathryn leads a strong team of industrial disease specialists with an emphasis upon delivering a high level of specialist advice in multiple high value disease illness claims and complex group litigation.

Claim case study

MJP is the widow of Mr R P, who worked for the national coal board and associated companies as a fitter and chief foreman fitter at the defendants’ Cwm Coking Works between 1960 and 1985. Mr P developed chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a consequence of his employment. Mr P’s COPD forced him to retire early in the late 1990s and it subsequently caused his death on 23 August 2005.

MJP brought a claim as part of the British Coal Coke Oven Workers Litigation (BCCOWL) in her capacity as the personal representatives of her late husband’s estate. She subsequently developed dementia, so her claim was continued by her son and attorney for property and financial affairs.

On 4 March 2021, the managing judge in the BCCOWL, Mr Justice Turner, approved settlement in MJP’s claim in the sum of £110,000.00.

Coke oven worker benefits

If you are suffering from lung cancer as a result of your work as a coke oven worker, you may be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB).

IIDB is an award that is paid to those who suffer an accident or disease due to their employment.

In order to apply for IIDB you would need to complete the required DWP paperwork. You can obtain this paperwork on the DWP website. Alternatively, Hugh James would be happy to guide you through this process in conjunction with your claim for compensation.

In order to qualify for IIDB we will need to prove that your employment on the coke ovens is the cause of your lung cancer. It is likely you will be assessed by a doctor appointed by DWP who will provide advice to DWP on the cause of your respiratory illness.

To discuss the process of making a claim and to discuss the possible amount of benefit that may be available to you, please fill in the form or contact us on the number at the top of this page.

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