Factory workers were often involved in various tasks that required exposure to dangerous substances, including asbestos. Countless factory workers have come into contact with asbestos as part of their jobs over the years.
Mesothelioma and Factories Explained
Factory workers are responsible for many things in today’s industrial marketplace. There are some factory workers who had physically demanding work responsibilities, such as loading payloads into trucks or running heavy machinery. Most factory workers, on the other hand, work in the production of materials that are put out at the factory. They take the raw material needed to create products and turn these materials into finished items.
Factory workers on production lines often do the same thing every day as part of their job and become proficient in their skill. They may install complex components into products, or they may simply be responsible for putting two pieces of a product together. However, what these kinds of workers have in common is a heightened risk of asbestos exposure.
Changes in Factory Worker’s Environments
The foundation of factory work has changed since the industrial revolution. Now, employees don’t put things together by hand, but instead use technology to help complete their job. Factories were once very hazardous places to work — they had poor ventilation, cramped spaces and dim lighting. While most of these conditions have since been rectified, employees are still at risk of being exposed to dangerous working conditions.
Despite improvements in many areas of factory work, employees are still inhaling asbestos as part of their daily job. This is because many machines used in production still contain asbestos as part of their insulation. The asbestos continues to break down over the years, thus exposing factory workers to toxic asbestos dust.
Asbestos can be found in grinding machines, which are used to polish the surfaces of products being manufactured. Grinding wheels, belt drives, transportation belts and conveying systems were also made from compounds containing asbestos. These machines decay over time, causing asbestos to be released into the air.
Conveying systems also contain asbestos in order to be fire-proof. Conveying systems involve a lot of friction, which can catch fire if not made from a fireproof material, such as asbestos. Asbestos is also contained in construction materials used to build the factories, such as the bricks, tiles and drywall. The asbestos has not been removed from these factories, so their breakdown causes asbestos fibers to become airborne.
Some factories manufactured products that were directly made from asbestos and workers often used asbestos-containing products to create items along the production line. Some factories made asbestos-containing products that came from raw asbestos. The workers used bulk shipments of items containing asbestos and fashioned them into the various products the manufacturer was supplying to the marketplace.
Asbestos Exposures in Factories
All factory workers share a common risk of asbestos exposure. In one study, factory workers who were diagnosed with mesothelioma were asked about their possible exposure to asbestos while in the workplace.
This study found that factory workers were exposed to asbestos in a variety of ways, including:
- Walking through manufacturing areas but did not directly work with asbestos-containing products
- Having offices near production lines that worked with asbestos-containing products
- Dealing with factory workers who had asbestos on their clothing
- Working on production equipment in factories that used asbestos as part of their manufacturing process
- Working in the hot press department of a factory
- Overseeing heavy production equipment used in the factory
- Making products that contained asbestos
- Having a family member who was a factory worker and brought asbestos fibers into the home on their clothing
Some of the greatest risks for asbestos exposure occurred among machine maintenance crews that were responsible for maintaining disintegrating products that contained asbestos. This job involved repairing conveyor belts with inserts containing asbestos and replacing asbestos bearings on machinery that involved a lot of friction. This put these workers in close contact with asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos exposure was also high among machine operators. They inhaled asbestos-containing products as part of their work repairing heavy machinery. Those particularly prone to asbestos exposure were drill operators. Their job involved drilling holes in products that were contaminated with asbestos. This caused the asbestos fibers to become airborne, where they could then become ingested or inhaled.
Those factory workers who used grinding machines often inhaled asbestos fibers when fragments from grinding wheels broke off and reached other surfaces. The asbestos in the wheels became increasingly friable, causing asbestos to become airborne. The asbestos fibers then entered the breathing spaces of the workers, where it could be inhaled or ingested.
Factory Workers Lawsuits
One of the major lawsuits involving asbestos and factory workers took place at the JW Roberts, LTD Factory in Leeds, England. The factory workers there made limpet asbestos until the factory eventually closed in 1959. The factory had a ventilation system that resulted in the deposition of asbestos fibers into the nearby homes and neighborhoods. This resulted in asbestos-related illnesses in people who lived near the factories, as well as the factory workers themselves.
There have been many scientific studies linking factory workers to asbestos exposure and resulting asbestos-related diseases. Many of these factory workers were exposed to asbestos even after it was known that asbestos dust was dangerous. This is the basis of many asbestos-related lawsuits in which factory workers are seeking compensation for the diseases they got due to asbestos exposure in the workplace.