At the height of its use, asbestos was incorporated into thousands of products. Many American workers were exposed to it every day on the job because asbestos-containing materials were used in the transportation industry, the construction industry, in all types of factories and manufacturing plants, throughout the electrical industry including the telephone industry, in the textile industry and in automobile manufacturing and repairs. Asbestos can still be found today across the country in buildings, roads, factories, homes, schools and most transportation vehicles including ships, trains and automobiles. For this reason, the health of workers continues to be threatened, particularly those workers employed in certain occupations and trades carrying an exceptionally high risk of asbestos exposure.
Construction Workers: The Consumer Product Safety Commission began to regulate the use of asbestos in construction products in 1977; however, this did not prevent the use of stockpiles of asbestos-laden supplies that continued to be used into the 1980’s. Today, laborers, general contractors, cement masons, crane operators, dry wall installers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and tile layers are exposed to asbestos fibers daily as they repair, renovate and demolish buildings laden with asbestos-containing products. Construction workers come in contact with asbestos in finishing cements, flatboard, millboard and roofing materials that include shingles and adhesives.
Factory Workers: Before asbestos regulations were implemented in the 1970s, drilling or cutting into asbestos-containing materials often placed drill press operators at risk of asbestos exposure. As the asbestos-laden products were drilled, cut and ground, asbestos dust became airborne. Drill press operators, grinding machine operators, welders, laborers, moulders, furnace men, millwrights, assemblers, custodial workers and maintenance workers employed at factories and other manufacturing plants were at extreme risk of asbestos exposure.
Naval Servicemen: Asbestos was widely used by the Navy in ship engine and boiler rooms because of its fireproofing and heat resistant capability. Until 1970’s, asbestos-containing materials could be found in every U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessel from the smallest patrol boats to the largest aircraft carriers. Asbestos could be found everywhere the sailors slept, ate, worked and relaxed and in many of the things they used each day, from pipe insulation to bedding. Even after the Navy banned the use of asbestos-laced materials, navy personnel continued to be exposed during the abatement and repair process. Many of the ships built with asbestos materials continued to operate for decades exposing Navy men and women to asbestos every day. The task of removing ship components in older vessels becomes more dangerous and expensive as the materials become more brittle over time and the risk of airborne asbestos fibers increases.
Auto Mechanics: Before the hazards of asbestos were recognized, asbestos was commonly used in vehicular brake linings and pads due to its excellent fire-resistant properties. Auto mechanic and technicians were exposed to asbestos fibers when they installed, repaired and replaced brake systems. They routinely used an air hose to clean the brake surfaces (“blowing out”) and regularly “beveled” brake edges to muffle brake noises. Both techniques released asbestos dust into air. In addition, any friction against the drums as the brake pad and linings break down can release asbestos fibers. This increased risk of asbestos exposure for auto technicians continues today. As late as 1993, some American-made cars were still manufactured with asbestos brake linings. Furthermore, these asbestos linings are still used in some expensive imports and can be purchased from part manufacturers around the world. Despite OSHA guidelines, dangerous levels of asbestos dust are often found in automobile workshops and mechanic garages across the country.
Asbestos Remediation and Decontamination Workers: Workers who are involved in asbestos remediation and decontamination are obviously at serious risk of asbestos exposure. When buildings are demolished, the asbestos materials in the walls, floors, ceilings and roofs must be removed, contained and disposed of by these specially trained workers. Without proper precautions such as safety equipment and clothing, asbestos remediation and decontamination workers can be exposed to toxic asbestos fibers when they are released into the air.
In 1997, OSHA began enacting standards to regulate the handling of asbestos in the workplace to protect workers from exposure. Unfortunately, the regulations came too late and countless American workers were exposed to asbestos daily. Moreover, failure to comply with regulations is more common than we’d like to believe.
Since the effects of asbestos exposure may not become evident for 20 to 50 years after exposure, workers in trades that carry high risk need to be vigilant in monitoring their health. Although there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, workers can take precautionary measures to reduce the amount of on-the-job exposure to the toxic substance. Protective clothing, proper ventilation, masks, protective eye wear, and proper disposal will help to limit health hazards. Employers need to properly train employees in safe handling procedures and crisis management techniques. Failure to do so makes them liable for consequences that their employees suffer and can also result in criminal charges.
The Philadelphia asbestos law firm of Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown, and Sandler have helped workers exposed to asbestos in all type of trades and work environments. We are conveniently located in Center City Philadelphia and serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call us today at 800-369-0899, or contact us online for more information about how we can help you.