Occupations with Risk of Asbestos Exposure | Minimizing the Hazards of Asbestos in a Workplace

Occupations with risk of Asbestos Exposure are the major cause of the mesothelioma cancer disease. People are put in danger of getting infected with various kinds of secondary pulmonary disease and cancer when they work around asbestos materials. Irrespective of the fact that asbestos was widely used back in the days, some occupations have higher risks of asbestos exposure in the work environment.

Occupations with Risk of Asbestos Exposure | Minimizing the Hazards of Asbestos in a Workplace
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Workplace Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos can still be found in various places all over the United States, such as in; factories, trains, buildings, homes, roads, automobiles and schools. Although not fully banned, its use is being regulated in the United States. Currently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is developing ways to deal with the risks from both new and legacy asbestos products.

Surprisingly, a number of products are still being manufactured with Asbestos, including roofing materials, gaskets, automobile brakes and clutches. Virtually everywhere you went in America, you found the use of Asbestos. It is a material that is highly resistant to heat, electricity, water and chemicals, and exists naturally fibrous form.

Asbestos was incorporated into thousands of commercial, household and construction products throughout the 20th century. These products include gaskets, insulation, drywall, flooring, roofing, joint compound, paints, Sealants, fireproof coatings, concrete and cement, bricks and pipes. The Asbestos fibers also exists in rubber, mattresses, flowerpots, lawn furniture, hats, gloves, electrical appliances and plastics.

Some Facts on Occupational Exposure

  • Most work-related health conditions that lead to death are caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • Every year, over 39,000 American lives are lost to Asbestos-related disease.
  • An estimated 1.3 million workers in the United States are potentially at risk of exposure to asbestos at their workplace.

Generally, your health is at great risk when you work with asbestos products. An exposure to asbestos is a proven cause of serious health conditions like cancer and other diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. It is very important to consult a doctor that specializes in your specific diagnosis, if you have been diagnosed with any asbestos-related disease.

It is on record that an estimated 27 million workers were exposed to asbestos between the year 1940 and 1979, and these workers could be at risk of developing mesothelioma or any other serious asbestos-related disease, based on studies carried out by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The risk of exposure in work environments have been greatly reduced by regulations, but for many occupations a degree of risk still remains.

Between 1987 – 1994 and 2000 – 2003, asbestos exposures that go beyond the recommended limit declined from 6.3% to 4.3%. This is according to studies done by the National Institute for Occupational safety and Health.

Top ranking Occupations with Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Workers at Construction Sites

  • Asbestos is still being used to make flooring and roofing materials. Therefore, this makes construction workers on new projects to be at high risk of exposure.
  • Among the most of those at risk of exposure are home renovators and demolition workers.
  • Before the 1980s, thousands of construction products contained asbestos.

Firefighters

  • Fires can damage the asbestos products and cause the fibers to become airborne, even though the asbestos product was used as a fireproof material, and they can get inhaled in such instance.
  • Protective firefighting clothes, boots and helmets were made with asbestos.
  • During and after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S World Trade Center, many firefighters were exposed to the toxic asbestos mineral fibers.

Workers in Industries

  • Many industrial workers like chemical workers, machine operators, foremen and mechanics, may get to encounter new asbestos products such as gaskets and brake pads.
  • Among the most at risk of exposure in the industry are industrial insulators as well.
  • Industrial workers got exposed to the asbestos fibers in insulation, fireproofing, gaskets, paper and textiles.

Workers in Power Plants

  • Studies have shown that nearly 33% of workers handling power plants had asbestos in their mucus samples.
  • An exposure threat to these power plant works is the cutting of old pipes made of asbestos.
  • The most common sources of exposure to asbestos were heat resistant products such as, pipe insulation and fireproofing spray.

Shipyard Workers

  • Government shipyard works and Navy veterans are the ones that have filed about 30% of all mesothelioma lawsuits.
  • By handling old materials, shipyard workers take part in decommissioning, repair and demolition; face the highest risk of asbestos exposure in shipyards today.
  • Multi-million dollar verdicts were awarded to shipyard workers by juries in lawsuits against manufacturers of asbestos products.

In addition to the above mentioned top five occupations with risk of asbestos exposure, there are other occupations associated with high, medium and low levels of the Asbestos exposure. The risk of developing a mesothelioma cancer disease is known to increase with higher levels of exposure.

High risk Occupations

These workers in this category tend to work around asbestos in high concentrations on a regular basis. A variety of products containing asbestos are being handled by them. These include brake pads, clutches, gaskets, insulation, construction materials and other industrial materials.

The workers in this category and the occupations they take part in that has high risk of exposure to the asbestos materials are:

  • Mining of Asbestos
  • Workers in Asbestos Plants
  • Construction Workers
  • Firefighters
  • Insulators
  • Industrial Workers
  • Power Plant Workers
  • Shipyard Workers
  • Factory Workers
  • Textile Mill Workers
  • Steel Mill Workers

Medium Risk Occupations

Medium risk jobs are the ones that involve direct or indirect work with asbestos materials. The concentration of the asbestos being exposed to may vary, depending on the day and job site, and can range from low to high.

In this category, some of the occupations expose workers to just low levels of the Asbestos materials, but the frequency of the exposure is what makes it enough for these workers to ingest or inhale harmful amounts of asbestos fibers over time.

Medium risk occupation workers get to handle different products that contain the asbestos fibers such as, friction materials, construction materials, automobile parts, repairing compounds, insulations, pipes and machinery parts. These products were being manufactured by some of the biggest Asbestos companies, including Owens Corning, Celotex, W.R. Grace & Co., Johns Manville and National Gypsum Co.

Moderate/Medium risk occupations include:

  • Blacksmiths
  • Carpenters
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Agricultural Workers
  • Workers in Cement Plants
  • Workers in Chemical Plants
  • Electricians
  • Engineers
  • HVAC Mechanics
  • Workers in Oil Refineries
  • Linotype Technicians
  • Metal Workers
  • Paper Mill Workers
  • Workers on Railroads
  • Plumbers

Low Risk Occupations

The concentration of the toxic Asbestos fibers in the workplace of workers in this category may be low or moderate, and doesn’t frequently place the works at risk of exposure to asbestos. If exposure occurs regularly for years, even these low level asbestos exposures can also cause mesothelioma and other asbestos-related health conditions.

Workers in this category got exposed to the asbestos in repairing compounds, friction materials, appliances, insulation and construction materials. Big asbestos companies such as GAF Corp. and Honeywell to smaller companies such as the Flintkote Company and Abex Corp. are top manufacturers of these products.

Low risk occupations with asbestos exposure include:

  • Warehouse Workers
  • Teachers
  • Hairdressers
  • Toll Collectors
  • Aircraft Mechanics
  • Chimney Sweeps
  • Aerospace Workers
  • Bakers
  • Appliance Installers

Regulation of Asbestos in Workplace

Since the 1970s, Asbestos has been regulated with progressively stringent controls being added over time. In California, a United States District Court judge rule that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must improve its data collection on Asbestos imports, some of which could be hazardous in the workplace. This was in June 2021.

In December 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed the first part of its risk evaluation of chrysotile asbestos and found out unreasonable risks to workers. There were also several other sources of the occupational exposures identified, including gaskets, brake linings and aftermarket brakes. The second part of the final risk evaluation is being processed and could lead to an increased regulation on the use of Asbestos.

In February 2020, a request for the public to comment on the safety measures related to asbestos in workplaces was made by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration. Understanding what measures most companies are taking to protect workers was to goal of the request for such comments from the public.

After the whole exercise, the result was an update on the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which included an expanded list of requirements which companies must follow in order to protect the health of their workers.

Some of the requirements include:

  • A program of compliance designed to limit the asbestos exposure of employees more aggressively.
  • Closer monitoring of asbestos exposure, with every employee having the right to know their level of exposure.
  • Respiratory protection in order to protect employees exposed to potential airborne contaminants.
  • In order to prevent anyone from coming in dangerous close contact with asbestos, a protective work clothing and equipment, along with maintenance and disposal procedures should be arranged for workers.
  • Warning signs and labels at work places and a better communication of the hazards to employees.
  • In order to monitor employees who are exposed to the airborne contaminants, a medical surveillance should be put in place.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) progressively reduced the amount of permissible asbestos concentrations in workplaces throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The risks of developing asbestos-related diseases were greatly limited by these measures put in place. But still, the consequences of poor enforcements of the OSHA regulations are still putting the lives of workers at risk, because it takes decades for symptoms of any asbestos-related disease to manifest.

In 1997, OSHA enacted laws that limited the level of asbestos further to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter at any job site.it is required of employers of labor to provide a safe working environment. These employers are also being required to provide for employees who work around asbestos, effective protective clothing and equipment.

If you get to discover that an employer does not provide safe working conditions to protect workers from asbestos exposure, you can actually file in a report. File in a report/complaint with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by calling or visiting any local OSHA office.

Minimizing the Hazards of Asbestos

Laws that require employers to protect their worker from asbestos exposure in the workplace are in place both at Federal, State and Local levels.

Laws and regulations have been established by agencies, requiring that employers should provide safe working environment, proper training and safe equipment to prevent any future exposure to asbestos. The agencies in charge of putting these laws in place are Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The EPA for example, enacted the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, also known as AHERA, in order to regulate asbestos in schools and also to protect students, teachers and administrators. The law is part of the Toxic Substance Control Act, and it lists Asbestos as a toxic substance.

Laws and regulations established by Occupational Safety and Health Administration for asbestos in workplace include requirements for the construction industry.

Agencies to contact in cases of suspected exposure to Asbestos in working environment are:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration – you can reach the complaint line of OSHA on 800-321-6742.
  • Mine Safety and Health Commission – you can make complaints about any suspected asbestos exposure in mining site to their help line on 800-746-1553.
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency – The EPA is in charge of setting federal asbestos regulations, issuing fines and enforcing criminal penalties for any violation of asbestos laws. You can reach their help line for complaints on 800-368-5888.
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – they offer educational training to workers on the dangers of asbestos, but have no actual enforcement power to punish offending employers. Their help line is 800-232-4636.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure Compensation

Any worker who develops Mesothelioma or any other Asbestos-related health condition may be eligible for compensation.

The types of legal compensation for workers who develop Mesothelioma include:

  • Lawsuit resulting in settlements or verdicts by the court
  • VA claims
  • Workers’ compensation by employers
  • Claims to Trust fund.

These compensations are usually sought from manufacturers of asbestos products. They are held liable for the spread of diseases their products cause. Some of these manufacturers have set up trust fund for asbestos, while some others handle legal claims through trials and settlements.

Workers who develop asbestos-related health conditions should try to find an expert mesothelioma lawyer to help guide them through the legal process of getting compensation.

So many Navy veterans were also exposed to the asbestos while serving. So much as up to 30% of all mesothelioma lawsuits on record are from Navy veterans. They also have the option of filing VA claims in order to assess the compensation.

Common Question Asked about Occupational Exposure to Asbestos

Q: What are to most risky occupations for Exposure to Asbestos?

A: Occupations that have the most risk of exposure to asbestos fibers which is the major cause of the malignant mesothelioma disease include: construction workers, firefighters, shipyard workers, power plant workers and industrial workers. This is because these workers get to handle materials that contain asbestos fibers in high volumes and on a regular basis.

Q: What should one do if there is a suspected asbestos exposure at work?

A: Getting to speak with a top mesothelioma doctor is the first step to take if you suspect that you have a history of asbestos exposure. In order to limit the spread and progression of the disease, peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma doctors specialize in advanced treatment options.

Q: is working in a building with Asbestos dangerous?

A: A one-time or short-term asbestos exposure may not present any significant risk; however, no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. Working in an asbestos building on a long-term basis may lead to repeated and cumulative exposures, and this can increase the risk of developing mesothelioma or any asbestos-related disease over the years to come.

Q: can compensation be claimed against a past employer for asbestos exposure?

A: if while working for a past employer, they neglected to protect you from asbestos exposure, you are likely eligible to file a legal claim for compensation. Payments or settlements vary by case, but is sometimes available within months of filing complaints. A Mesothelioma law firm or a lawyer that specializes in Asbestos litigation can help you file a claim.

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