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Electrical Manufacturing Plants and Asbestos Exposure

Electrical manufacturing plants are places that create and supply electrical equipment and products. So, if you have ever owned or used a phone, motor, kitchen appliances, HVAC systems, or even solar panels, it is likely you have had experience with one of these companies. Asbestos exposure was common at these plants.

As of 2019, it has been reported by the College of Engineering of Marquette University that “Insulating materials and insulation systems design have been gaining more attention as more electrical machines tend to operate in harsher environments for various applications”, which means, it is vital for these plants to emphasize safety. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is recognized for its heat-resistant properties, was a commonly used insulation material that posed extreme health risks to workers causing cancer and chronic lung disease. This conversation sparks questions as to the type of insulation that will be used for these harsher environments and if this time around, the health of workers will be prioritized.

The year 1882 marks the inception of electrical manufacturing plants in the United States. Thomas Edison established Pearl Street Station to illuminate Wall Street and the New York Times and since then over 13,000 electrical facilities have been created reporting average sales of roughly $1.8 trillion. The upsurge in facilities called for more skilled electricians to join the industry. Unfortunately, the flip side of this coin is that now, instead of only 100 workers that could be exposed there were now thousands who could be exposed to asbestos. These positions include:

· Boiler operators

· Power tool repairers

· Electrical installers

· Maintenance workers

As mentioned previously, asbestos is a type of insulation material that is used for things like coating hot water or steam pipes, and ceiling tiles for electrical cabinets, gaskets, pumps, valves, brake pads, and cements. When the asbestos is damaged or undergoes some transformation that causes it to separate, the dust of the mineral can be released into the air and inhaled. When this occurs, detrimental health effects follow. It was discovered that asbestos exposure in facilities like these led to a rare type of cancer called mesothelioma and a chronic lung disease called asbestosis.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was quick to act after the discovery of asbestos exposure was found in these companies. It was declared that there were no safe levels of exposure and employers are responsible for creating a safe work environment for these employees. While the effects are not visible like heat exhaustion or having direct contact with a

machine, OSHA reports it only takes a few days for the mineral to be present in individuals after exposure.

Investigating the OSHA standards further has revealed that asbestos exposure would have occurred if the employee had been without equipment. Monitoring that was then required included protective clothing like gloves, head and foot coverings, face shields, and vented goggles. In addition to this, the guidelines for levels of asbestos in the workplace are quoted by OSHA as follows:

· “Each person entering a regulated area shall be supplied with and required to use a respirator”

· “All hand-operated and power-operated tools which would produce or release fibers of asbestos, such as, but not limited to, saws, scorers, abrasive wheels, and drills, shall be provided with local exhaust ventilation systems”

· “Asbestos shall be handled, mixed, applied, removed, cut, scored, or otherwise worked in a wet state sufficient to prevent the emission of airborne fibers to expose employees to levels in excess of the TWA and/or excursion limit”

· “The employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 1.0 fiber per cubic centimeter of air as averaged over a sampling period of thirty (30) minutes”

However, some companies were too late to take action as the injuries became prevalent. Many individuals began reporting these incidents of mesothelioma and asbestosis and reported negligence amongst these facilities because, before these new OSHA regulations in 1971, there was little done to prevent the harm of exposure. Some of the companies reported by Law.com that were liable for exposure were:

· CBS Corp.,

· Crane Co.,

· URS Corp.,

· Palmetto LLC,

· F.W. Webb Co.,

· Ford Motor Co.,

· The Boeing Co.,

· Lockheed Martin Corp.,

· General Electrical Co.,

As mentioned earlier, the main illnesses these workers faced were mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in vital organs like the lungs, heart, abdomen, and testicles. In addition to this, the life span is very short following diagnosis and this is likely caused by the long latency period which is roughly 30-40 years before symptoms occur. The generalized symptoms of this cancer are chest pain, difficulty breathing, and persistent cough. The second illness is asbestosis, which is a chronic lung condition. When the mineral is inhaled it creates a scarring of the lungs. This makes it difficult to breathe and additionally causes chest

pain. Unfortunately, there is no cure for either of these conditions and medical treatment is available to only subdue or stop the growth of these symptoms.

Electrical Manufacturing Plant workers who have been exposed and experienced symptoms of an asbestos-related disease could be eligible for financial compensation. If you or someone you know has been affected by mesothelioma in the state of Pennsylvania, please visit The Halpern Law firm for a free consultation or call 1 (800) 505-6000 to turn today’s adversity into tomorrow’s justice.

 

Sources:

https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1001 https://powerassemblies.com/blog/prioritizing-workplace-safety-within-the-electrical-manufacturing-industry/#:~:text=Promoting%20Safety%20in%20Electrical%20Manufacturing,by%20direct%20contact%20with%20equipment. https://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1543&context=electric_fac https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos https://www.thomasnet.com/articles/top-suppliers/electrical-equipment-suppliers-companies/

https://www.nationalgrid.com/stories/energy-explained/history-energy-united-states#:~:text=In%201882%20Thomas%20Edison%20constructed,popping%20up%20around%20the%20city.

https://www.industryselect.com/blog/key-facts-on-us-electronics-manufacturing https://www.todaysmilitary.com/careers-benefits/careers/power-plant-electricians

https://www.asbestos.ae/asbestos-blog/asbestos-in-power-stations

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11331993/#:~:text=The%20Occupational%20Safety%20and%20Health,workers%20and%20public%20health%20groups.

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