Construction Workers

Summary

Construction workers are unsung heroes in society. Although many specific professions such as healthcare professionals, teachers and emergency service workers have a higher profile, they'd be helpless without the infrastructure construction workers provide them.

Skilled tradespeople and their labor force built every possible facility and support system across America. These ordinary construction workers utilized a broad range of materials and, for over seven decades, many building products contained the lethal substance called asbestos.

Construction Workers Roles and Responsibilities

There are three broad construction worker classifications or groups:

  1. Residential and Commercial: Construction covering homes and office buildings.
  2. Industrial: Construction of factories and large complexes.
  3. Civil and Heavy: Construction of roads, airports, and railway transportation systems.

Every society in history relied on construction workers to build houses, public structures and utility connections. Most construction workers fall into three other groups. Those categories are professionals, skilled workers and unskilled laborers. Professionals are the engineers who plan, design and approve projects. Experienced construction workers are tradespeople holding journeyman qualifications. Unskilled laborers are usually assistants or apprentices in training.

Professionals fall under many specialties like structural, civil, mechanical and electrical engineers. Skilled workers include carpenters, electricians, plumbers and masons. Semi-skilled construction workers often perform insulation, roofing, drywall and painting jobs. No matter what role or responsibility construction workers had, every one of them had asbestos exposure during the early and mid-twentieth century.

Construction Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was a staple ingredient in hundreds of building products from the 1920s to the 1980s This was before the extreme health hazards from asbestos exposure became widely known. Most asbestos-based materials were phased out after conclusive proof that abundant and long-term asbestos exposure was a leading cause of respiratory and digestive illness. Virtually every home, office building and factory in America once contained asbestos. Many of them still do.

Asbestos was thought to be the perfect construction material, frequently added to other products to make them lighter, stronger, fireproof and thermally stable. Asbestos was plentiful, easy to work with and inexpensive to purchase.

Construction workers used these building materials containing asbestos:

  • Rolled insulation in wall, floors and ceilings.
  • Wrappings around hot water pipes and furnace boilers.
  • Roofing felt and shingles.
  • Floor tiles and underlayment.
  • Cement powder and masonry products.
  • Paints, glues and sealants.
  • Cabinet materials like paper liners and pressboard.
  • Door cores and facings.
  • Drywall board, joint tape and finishing compound.
  • Welding rods and protective gear.
  • Exterior siding products.

Construction workers cut, drilled, sanded and shaped all sorts of asbestos-based building products before installing them in their final state. Once installed, most materials containing asbestos were stable and safe. The handling phase, however, presented a danger. Working with asbestos often caused tiny particles or fibers to detach and become airborne. This process happened with raw asbestos and dust from asbestos workings.

MJN Brief

Some construction workers were consistently in a working environment where asbestos fibers filled the air. It didn’t matter if workers were personally installing asbestos materials. Just being in a room where others were using asbestos exposed all construction personnel to hazardous fibers. This exposure rate was particularly severe in renovation and demolition jobs

Construction workers also cross-contaminated people and places outside of their workspace. Asbestos from construction sites settled on workers clothes, tools and vehicles. Families of construction workers were exposed to asbestos fibers while doing laundry or riding in contaminated cars. Even office workers were at risk of asbestos exposure when workers wearing their clothing from a work site dropped by for business.

Construction Workers and Mesothelioma

Construction workers were in the highest risk group for asbestos exposure. That made them prime candidates for developing mesothelioma in later years. Mesothelioma is a deadly lung disease caused only by asbestos exposure. Construction workers inhaled microscopic asbestos fibers which then attached to their lung lining or mesothelium. Expelling asbestos particles is impossible. They remain in the mesothelium and eventually cause scar tissue leading to malignant tumors.

It takes anywhere from ten to fifty years for a construction worker to develop mesothelioma. That includes anyone exposed to asbestos. The risk of mesothelioma increases according to the amount of asbestos and the time length a worker inhaled or ingested asbestos particles.

Compensation for Construction Workers with Mesothelioma

If you are a construction worker who developed mesothelioma from workplace asbestos exposure, you’re eligible for compensation. This compensation can cover medical expenses, lost wages and associated damages. Families of mesothelioma victims can apply on their behalf. They can also file wrongful death lawsuits.