Asbestos Exposure in Heavy Equipment Mechanics

Summary

Heavy equipment mechanics are responsible for working on a range of large equipment, both for maintenance and repairs. Servicing these types of heavy machines usually involves taking parts away to be cleaned or replaced, and it is during these situations that the risk of coming into contact with asbestos is maximized.

Heavy Equipment Mechanics Roles and Responsibilities

As with any skilled profession, it’s the responsibility of a heavy equipment mechanic to troubleshoot issues and implement changes.

The key roles of a heavy equipment mechanic are:

  • Servicing machines
  • Repairing machines
  • Cleaning heavy equipment
  • Rebuilding engines
  • Fixing universal joints
  • Tuning engines
  • Identifying potential issues before they arise
  • Maintaining machinery and performing routine checks

When working in factories with machines, there are always a lot of risks associated. However, before the 1980s, one of the most misunderstood risks was asbestos.

Asbestos-containing brake linings were often used on heavy equipment until the dangers of this toxic material were realized in 1980. Before this point, asbestos was a commonly used substance to fireguard and protect both workers and equipment in manufacturing settings.

Heavy Equipment Mechanics and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was once hailed as a miracle mineral and was used from the early 1900s until 1980 because of its desirable properties.

Asbestos benefits included:

  • Low cost
  • Resistant against heat and fire
  • A trouble-shooter for wear and friction
  • Resistant to chemicals
  • Resistant to electric

All of the above characteristics made asbestos an essential tool in the manufacturing and construction industries. But these tiny particles of asbestos are also easily friable. Once airborne, they can be detrimental to lung health.

Brake Repair and Removal

Heavy equipment mechanics were exposed to asbestos in many ways, but one of the most common was though brake repair and removal. Asbestos was often used to keep brakes on heavy-duty equipment to aid friction and prevent them from overheating.

However, asbestos would flake off during the repairing and removal process and could have become inhaled by the mechanics.

Other Asbestos Exposure

Once asbestos becomes airborne, it is incredibly difficult to control. The tiny fibers can carry in the air and become attached to shoes, clothing and hair, which can carry the asbestos to other areas (such as the shared canteen, vehicles and the home).

Other areas of concern for heavy equipment mechanics include the maintenance and repair of:

MJN Brief

A 2009 study looked into the potential risks to mechanics repairing heavy equipment and found that the levels of asbestos-containing products resulted in an exposure below the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s standard.

Experts believe that, despite the persistent scraping, hammering, drilling and cleaning of parts during an 8-hour shift, most of the asbestos would have worn away with friction before it came to routine maintenance. This is good news for the mechanics, as they were exposed to less asbestos than was initially realized.

Heavy Equipment Mechanics and Mesothelioma

Asbestos fibers are so small that they can hardly be seen. Often carried in a cloud of dust, these tiny fibers can become inhaled and embed themselves in the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen of heavy duty mechanics.

Over time, tumors grow and symptoms become more apparent. However, the rarity of a mesothelioma diagnosis means that many doctors will not come across a case in their lifetime. Because of this, it’s incredibly difficult to diagnose. Many victims will experience breathing problems or abdomen pain, but mesothelioma can take up to 50 years to develop.

If you think that you may have been exposed to asbestos as a heavy duty mechanic, it’s essential that you mention this to your doctor to gain an early diagnosis. There are several possible life-extending procedures and therapies available to mesothelioma patients.

Compensation for Heavy Equipment Mechanics

Being unknowingly exposed to asbestos at work (or not being given the proper protective equipment) is the fault of your employer or negligent asbestos companies. As such, you may have a strong case for claiming compensation.

If you were a heavy duty mechanic and you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit up to 3 years from your diagnosis date, depending on your state. Contact our Justice Support Team today to learn more.

View Author and Sources
Sources
  1. Asbestos Exposure on the Job. Retrieved from: http://www.lung-cancer.com/assistance/workplace.html. Accessed May 6, 2018.
  2. Heavy Equipment Maintenance Exposure Assessment: Using a Time-Activity Model to Estimate Surrogate Values for Replacement of Missing Data. Retrieved from: https://oeh.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15459620701411109?src=recsys&journalCode=uoeh20&#.Wu7799PwbOR. Accessed May 6, 2018.
  3. Airborne Asbestos Fibre Exposure Assessment of Heavy Equipment Mechanics. Retrieved from: https://www.aiha.org/aihce05/handouts/po110boelter.pdf. Accessed May 6, 2018.
  4. Airborne asbestos concentrations associated with heavy equipment brake removal. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19692501. Accessed May 6, 2018.

Last modified: May 22, 2018