Even though federal regulations were established in the 1980s by OSHA and other government agencies, many blue-collar workers remain at risk due to asbestos exposure in the workplace.
Construction workers, roofers, electricians, plumbers, firemen, auto mechanics, factory workers, and many others are not 100 percent safe from the risks of asbestos exposure. Despite regulations diminishing the use of asbestos, it still remains in many products, including cement, roofing material, automobile clutches and brake pads, and even vinyl tile.
Most at Risk for Occupational Exposure to Asbestos
Construction: Today, the construction industry is one of the most vulnerable to occupational exposure of asbestos. Specifically, workers who renovate commercial and residential properties that were built before the 1980s are at risk. Many of these buildings that are remodeled expose workers to asbestos. When the mineral is cut from insulation or other materials it becomes a danger to your health. Drywall installers, insulators, plumbers, and brick masons must be cognizant of the potential dangers.
Shipbuilding: Heavily mined due to its durability and high resistance to heat and corrosion as well as the fact it could be easily processed, asbestos was a critical element in the shipbuilding industry. From boiler rooms to engine rooms to sleeping quarters, asbestos could be found from bow to stern. For shipyard workers, exposure began with the loading, unloading and handling of products already containing asbestos, such as the crates and packaging materials used to transport the items needed for shipbuilding. The risk for asbestos has also affected the following trades at the shipyards:
- General contractors
Automotive: Even today, a large number of products are made with asbestos, including automobile brakes and clutches. Replacing brakes, a common job performed by mechanics involves filing, sanding and drilling brake pads. For auto mechanics, the release of these dust particles into the air puts them at a greater risk for asbestos exposure.
Railroad: Asbestos was commonly used in the maintenance and repair of railroads due to its insulating properties, but everyone involved with the railroad was at risk. Due to the constant work being performed and resulting dust, asbestos fibers were continually filling the air. From the mechanics to the inspectors, railroad workers were all put in harm’s way.
Emergency Responders: Firefighters and paramedics are in charge of responding to emergencies and saving lives, while knowingly or unknowingly entering potentially dangerous buildings and dwellings. Even though asbestos is a fire retardant, fire damage to a building can expose friable asbestos fibers and contaminate the surrounding area. Emergency responders are equipped with special breathing apparatuses, but these invisible fibers can remain in the air and on clothing, placing these workers at risk.
Workers in these industries are susceptible to cancers and mesothelioma. The government can only do so much to protect workers. Every case is different. It is important for workerspatients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure to contact an asbestos injury attorney. OSHA guidelines must be followed, but workers have to be aware of the dangers in their respective workplaces because employers have been known to not divulge the dangers.