Drill Press Operators

People working as drill press operators were once at high risk of asbestos exposure. Drilling into asbestos-containing materials released harmful fibers into the air where they were continuously inhaled by unsuspecting workers. Asbestos was also used in many components of the machine shop, including the ceilings, walls and work surfaces.

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Drill Press Operators and Asbestos Exposure

Operating a drill press may not sound like a particularly hazardous profession. While creating holes in materials is certainly part of the job, drill press operators performed several other machinist duties, and the role involved working with many different materials.

Until the late 20th century, a great deal of these materials contained a dangerous mineral called asbestos.

Most drill press operators work in factory-like facilities. From the 1920s to the late 1980s, every one of these facilities used asbestos-containing materials for production.

Asbestos was considered the perfect material for constructing machine parts and assembly components because it is inexpensive, light-weight and readily available. Asbestos is also fire-retardant, heat-resistant and non-corrosive. It was an ideal insulator in high-heat and flammable applications.

Today, many drill press operators and other exposed workers suffer life-threatening diseases caused by asbestos exposure.

Drill Press Operators Were Unknowingly Exposed

Drill press operation released vast quantities of raw asbestos particles into the air and left behind mounds of asbestos-laden metal filings and shavings. Sadly, drill press operators unknowingly inhaled or ingested asbestos daily.

How Drill Press Operators Were Exposed to Asbestos

Drill press operators came into contact with asbestos products constantly. Their job involved disturbing asbestos materials by drilling holes, removing stock and modifying shapes.

Continually disturbing asbestos materials resulted in a steady release of tiny asbestos fibers into their surrounding work environment.

Asbestos fibers settled on drill press operators’ clothes, tools and personal equipment such as lunch boxes and packs. These unsuspecting workers then carried asbestos-contaminated materials home, exposing their families and friends to the hazardous fibers as well.

Asbestos Used in Drill Press Operating

Drill press operators were surrounded by asbestos materials daily. Although they were frequently exposed to asbestos while fabricating parts, the threat did not stop there.

Asbestos was often used as an insulator and fireproofing material in machine shops where high heat was a common problem.

 Asbestos was used in many areas of the drill press operator’s environment, including:

  • Flooring
  • Walls
  • Work surfaces
  • Ceilings
  • Paints
  • Equipment

Certain asbestos material suppliers were fully aware of the severe dangers of long-term, unprotected asbestos exposure to innocent workers like the average drill press operator.

Despite this, widespread asbestos use continued until the late 1980s when the health risks were publicly identified, and the government enacted asbestos regulations.

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Drill Press Operator Careers

Drill press operators are highly skilled machinists who specialize in metal fabrication. They work alongside millwrights, machinists and other tradespersons in shop or factory environments.

Their roles extend far beyond drilling holes. Drill press operators are responsible for building a range of specific tools and machine parts.

All forms of metalcraft involve drill presses. Drill press operators use bits and unique cutters to process bare metal into finished pieces. Some projects are repetitive assembly line procedures, while others involve creating one-time-only custom machine parts or attachments.

Essentially, drill press operators are responsible for modifying metal stock and transforming it from a raw state into an end product.

Every major industry that involves metal production employs the drill press. Some companies use old-fashioned machines that require manual manipulation. Other companies use advanced drill presses that have evolved into complex computer and laser-guided equipment.

Virtually every facility and workshop in the metal fabrication industry employs drill press operators.

Drill press operators work in a variety of industries, such as: 

  • General metal fabrication
  • Automotive production lines
  • Aviation engine and frame building
  • Marine and shipyard facilities
  • Industrial power production
  • Atomic energy plants
  • Railroad shops and repair yards

Drill Press Operator Health Risks

Mesothelioma is a lethal form of cancer caused only by asbestos exposure. Historically, drill press operators were exposed to large amounts of asbestos throughout their careers. This puts drill press operators at high risk for developing the disease.

When drill press operators inhaled airborne asbestos, the microscopic fibers became lodged in the lining of the lungs, called the pleura. These tiny, needle-like particles are impossible to expel or cough up.

Over time, asbestos fibers embedded in the body trigger mesothelioma tumors to grow.

The risk of a drill press operator developing mesothelioma depends on the amount of asbestos they were exposed to, the duration of their exposure and the type of asbestos they worked with. Regardless, asbestos-related diseases can take decades to surface after exposure.

Most drill press operators worked with two main types of asbestos:

  • Chrysotile: Also called white asbestos, chrysotile is the most common type used in machine production. Exposure to chrysotile is dangerous and often results in lung-irritant conditions like asbestosis.
  • Amphibole: This form of asbestos is far more deadly. A drill press operator exposed to any amount of amphibole asbestos for any length of time is at high risk of developing mesothelioma.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

If you worked as a drill press operator and have since developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure in your workplace, you might be eligible for compensation. Legal awards are available for medical expenses, lost wages, and personal injury.

Punitive damages have also been awarded against negligent asbestos product manufacturers and suppliers. Families may also file suits on behalf of relatives, or file wrongful death claims if their loved one has passed away.

For more information on seeking justice for drill press operators exposed to asbestos, 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 25, 2019

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