Bulldozer Operators

Bulldozer operators are at risk of asbestos exposure, especially during demolition work. Asbestos exposure can lead to a deadly type of cancer called mesothelioma, as well as other serious illnesses. Bulldozer operators who understand the dangers of asbestos can minimize exposure and protect themselves and their families.

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Bulldozer Operators and Asbestos Exposure

Most people wouldn’t consider heavy equipment workers like bulldozer operators to be at high risk for asbestos exposure. They’d think the same applies to excavator and crane operators as well. But that’s not the case.

Any worker who operates demolition equipment around asbestos-contaminated job sites and buildings could be exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos.

Most heavy equipment operators work outdoors and inside their machines. Some heavy machines have isolated cabs with filtered air condition systems. But most don’t. The operator has open windows or sides and is fully exposed to the air. That can be a disaster when dormant asbestos is disturbed during demolition.

There’s nothing dainty about demolition work. Building teardown is violent work where all types of materials are crushed and ground so they can be taken away.

When asbestos-based building products are ripped apart, clouds of microscopic particles fill the air and surround the bulldozer operator with a swirl of asbestos dust.

How Asbestos Exposure Takes Place

Over time, asbestos becomes friable, turning into powder when it’s old and dry. It’s easily ingested into an equipment operator’s lungs and digestive tract. Asbestos particles also settle on the operator’s clothes. They’re transported back home where family members suffer secondary exposure.

Bulldozer operators aren’t only exposed to asbestos during primary demolition work. Many old sites are still highly contaminated with asbestos even when the majority of the demolished material is gone.

Those asbestos clouds raised during a knockdown find their way to the ground. A new machine operator who had nothing to do with primary demolition may show up to excavate for a new project. They’ll disturb the settled asbestos fines and create an equally hazardous condition without realizing it.

How Bulldozer Operators Were Exposed to Asbestos

Demolition work happens routinely. During a career operating heavy equipment, a machine technician faces many different jobs. Some are simple with quick and easy access. Others are complex and contain dangerous materials like asbestos.

These are examples of demolition jobs a bulldozer operator gets tasked with:

  • Industrial Teardowns: Almost all chemical factories and manufacturing plants used asbestos-based products. That was mostly in heat-resistant and fireproofing applications.
  • Commercial Building Demolitions: This could be anything from old fuel stations to department stores. Asbestos was regularly used in floors, walls, ceilings, and roofs.
  • Residential Wrecking: Old houses are regularly taken down, making way for new structures. Homes built before the 1980s contained many asbestos materials like roofing, masonry and cabinet liners.
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Asbestos Used in Bulldozer Manufacturing

Another serious asbestos exposure risk to bulldozer operators is the machine they’re running. Many heavy equipment pieces contained asbestos in their gaskets, clutches, and brakes.

Wherever there were friction, heat, or fire risks, manufacturers insulated them with asbestos products. Particles were continually loosened and contaminated the operators.

Caterpillar, specifically, used nearly 200 components containing asbestos and that practice continued until a mesothelioma lawsuit stopped Cat in 2000.

Bulldozer Operator Careers

Heavy equipment operators are highly skilled workers who gain expertise from years in machinery seats and handling controls. Many are well-paid professionals having a risky job operating powerful machines weighing thousands of pounds. They face a multitude of tasks.

Often, they’re required to pull down and clean up old buildings. The vast majority of older buildings contained asbestos-based materials.

Metal track bulldozers are just one type of demolition equipment. They’re usually used for remedial work on flat ground where other specialized machines have already torn down a building.

Other demolition equipment that machine operators handle includes:

  • Large cranes with wrecking balls and claw attachments
  • Track mounted excavators with boom and bucket extensions
  • Wheel-mounted excavators ranging from small to large sizes
  • Mini excavators that fit in compact spaces
  • Bobcat and skid steer loaders
  • Frontend and backhoe rubber-tired loaders

Bulldozer Operator Health Risks

Being exposed to asbestos puts bulldozer operators at risk of inhaling the microscopic fibers, which can become embedded in the lung lining called the pleura.

The fibers can’t be expelled and, instead, they remain in the lung lining causing irritation to the tissue.

After 20-50 years, the asbestos fibers trigger genetic mutations within the lung lining, leading to mesothelioma.

On rarer occasions, mesothelioma can also develop in the abdomen (peritoneal) and the heart (pericardial). Less severe asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis and pleural plaques.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

Asbestos suppliers and product manufacturers knowingly concealed the deadly health risks of their materials. If you’re a former heavy equipment operator who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for legal compensation.

Lawsuits, asbestos trust funds and other forms of legal claims can help you obtain financial awards to pay for top medical treatment. Family members can also file lawsuits against negligent asbestos manufacturers, including punitive damages and wrongful death claims.

To find out whether you are eligible for a mesothelioma claim, contact our Justice Support Team today.

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: October 24, 2019

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