Factory workers take in a large spectrum of people employed in manufacturing plants. Practically anyone who worked in an environment taking raw materials and transforming them can be considered a factory worker. That includes workers who directly handled materials ready for refining all the way to workers who packaged and shipped finished products.
Not all factory workers dealt with manufacturing tasks. Many acted in support roles where they were in daily contact with the same atmosphere as workers in primary production roles. They breathed the same air and came in close contact with each other’s clothing, tools and equipment. From the 1920s to the late 1980s, many American factories used asbestos-containing materials. This exposed every one of these factory workers to asbestos-related health risks.
Factory Workers Roles and Responsibilities
Factory processes became popular during the Industrial Revolution. As the world’s population expanded, the need for every conceivable consumer product exploded. To meet this extensive demand, enterprising businesses realized how efficient factory production was compared to individual craftspeople turning out single items. The assembly line emerged and factories sprang up across the nation.
These were the days before automated robots took over. Although factory production let repetitive tasks save time and labor, they still required human workers. Factories employed hundreds of thousands.
Employees filled many different roles such as:
- Workers handling raw materials like minerals and fabrics
- Production line workers who assembled components into final products
- Machinists who built tools for assembly lines and processing equipment
- Maintenance people who kept operations running
- Supervisors who inspected products and oversaw workers
- Technicians who researched, developed and tested new products
- Clerical staff who kept records and payroll issues
- Shipping and receiving workers who took in raw materials and sent out finished products
- Outside contractors like government regulators, salespeople and investors
Every worker employed in an American factory experienced similar environments. By the early twentieth century, factories were major employers and contributors to the national economy. All factories looked for ways to improve production and profits.
Asbestos was a new and promising material by the 1920s. Many different industries used asbestos in product manufacturing because it was cheap, lightweight and plentiful. Asbestos was thought to be the answer for all insulation and fire resistance applications.
These different factories used massive quantities of asbestos in production as well as in their own building construction:
- Aerospace facilities
- Automotive assembly lines
- Building material production
- Chemical manufacturers
- Drywall board, tape and joint compound producers
- Electronic component factories
- Food processing plants
- Heavy equipment builders
- Insulation producers
- Oil and gas refineries
- Paper mills
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Steel and aluminum industries
- Textile manufacturers
The list of factories using asbestos materials carries on. It’s safe to say factories using asbestos from the 1920s to the late 1980s did little to protect their workers from asbestos exposure. Many asbestos raw material suppliers were well aware of asbestos risks as early as the 1930s. So were some factory owners, investors and administrators who knowingly put workers’ health in jeopardy.
Factory Workers and Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a relatively stable material as long as it’s not disturbed. That’s not possible when taking raw asbestos and turning it into a usable product. Asbestos has two frailties. It easily dislodges when handled and it becomes brittle or friable when old and dry. Working with raw asbestos as well as older finished products happened all the time in factories.
Any asbestos movement causes microscopic fibers to dislodge and become airborne. These tiny but deadly particles lodged in factory workers’ lungs. Asbestos particles are sharp shards that impale the lung lining called the pleura. They’re impossible to expel and will sit dormant for decades.
Eventually, a mass of scar tissue from asbestos fiber infection becomes a malignant cancerous tumor. This disease is called mesothelioma, and it’s only caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. For many factory workers, their place of employment was responsible for their developing mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Compensation for Factory Workers
If you were exposed to asbestos while employed in a factory and developed mesothelioma, you might be entitled to compensation. It’s necessary to establish that your workplace environment was the main contributor to inhaling or ingesting asbestos particles. The amount of asbestos and the duration of exposure are two main factors in establishing that your mesothelioma is work-related.
American courts have awarded medical expense and lost income compensation for mesothelioma victims. Courts have also ordered punitive damages against negligent asbestos suppliers as well as allowing family members to file claims for mesothelioma patients. Wrongful death lawsuits are also settled.