Right up through the 1980s, asbestos was referred to as the “miracle material” and was used in machines for everything from insulation to fireproof coatings. It is a strong and flexible fiber, can resist fire and extreme heat, and was relatively cheap to get. For these, and other, reasons, asbestos was used widely in many manufacturing and construction industries.
When the dangers associated with ingesting or inhaling the toxic fiber became well known, employers and manufacturers in those industries had to make a decision. They either needed to warn employees, properly have the asbestos removed, and invest in new products, or they could just keep the information to themselves. Far too many chose to keep the dangers of asbestos a secret.
Recently, a man who worked in an ammunition plant developed an asbestos-related pleural disease and pulmonary fibrosis. He has filed a lawsuit against 17 companies who he says are responsible for his daily exposure to asbestos from 1974-1980. He worked as a pipefitter and welder, which are positions known to commonly expose workers to asbestos.
As a pipefitter, it was not uncommon for a worker to have had significant bare-hand exposure to asbestos. Likewise for welders, the environments that workers suffered through included worksites thick with loosened asbestos dust. It could have been very simple to properly safeguard workers in these environments by providing gloves and other protective gear.
In this case, the man claims that all 17 companies failed to properly warn their employees of the presence and dangers of asbestos in their products. Had they taken more thorough safety precautions to protect their workers, it is possible that this man could have avoided the devastation of an asbestos-related disease.
If the company did, in fact, fail to properly warn and protect employees against asbestos exposure, sadly they are not alone. Companies across the United States chose to focus on profit over people when the dangers of asbestos were learned. The victims of this negligence may want to seek compensation from those responsible.
Source: The Southeast Texas Record, “17 companies sued for man’s asbestos exposure at ammunition plant,” Michelle Keahey, May 14, 2012