Shipbuilding and asbestos regulations

Members of the U.S. Navy and people who work in the shipbuilding industry are often considered groups who are exposed to asbestos much more than people in other career fields. For several decades, asbestos was used on Navy vessels and the people who built the ships, lived on them and serviced them were often exposed to high concentrations of the toxic fiber.

In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have several directives and rules in place that address the potential threat of asbestos in the shipbuilding industry. When followed, these guidelines and rules should minimize the risk that asbestos poses to workers.

For example, OSHA has specific standards in place for the testing, removal, storage and disposal of asbestos on vessels. These standards set strict rules for people working in shipbuilding and include:

  • Limits on exposure time
  • Requirements for safety equipment
  • Appropriate certifications for workers testing and removing asbestos
  • Restrictions on activities like eating and smoking in areas where asbestos has been identified
  • Use of proper removal equipment such as vacuums, ventilation and glovebags
  • Ongoing testing and safety compliance evaluation

When parties are in compliance with these and the many other standards set by OSHA, the risks of asbestos exposure can be minimized considerably. Unfortunately, these rules were put in place long after many workers were already exposed to asbestos in their shipbuilding or military jobs.

However, these rules are in place today and it is crucial that employers comply fully with OSHA standards or they could risk exposing workers to toxic materials.

Any employee who has been exposed to asbestos on the job due to failed safety compliance, either purposeful or accidental, should understand that workers’ compensation is available for people who have suffered an illness or injury on the job and this typically includes exposure to toxic substances. Even if a worker plans to file a negligence lawsuit at some point against a third-party, pursuing workers’ compensation right away can help workers and their family deal with the immediate financial damages of a workplace illness and focus on getting treatment.