Machinists and Asbestos Exposure
During the cutting, scraping, and grinding process, machinists are subject to an excessive amount of vibration, which causes clouds of dust. This process creates a lot of heat and friction. Asbestos was commonly used within the tools and materials as a way to control the high heat.
Vibrating parts causes pieces of asbestos to become airborne, mixing with the dust particles and circulating around the workshop.
Asbestos was also used in these types of environments as an insulator. As it’s retardant to heat, chemicals and electricity, the material was mostly used to cover steam pipes, electrical wires and boilers in an attempt to protect both the workers and the building itself.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that asbestos was discovered to be carcinogenic and was banned from use.
Making the parts themselves was another way in which machinists would come into contact with asbestos. Gaskets and other metal parts would be cut from a sheet of asbestos graphite using a machine. This process would disperse the toxic fibers and put workers at risk.
Machinists and Asbestos Exposure Today
Today’s machines are designed to reduce the amount of dust that workers are exposed to. The modern computer-controlled technology now uses lasers, water jets, and electric wires to cut through metal pieces, limiting the danger to workers.
Working around machines and tools will always create occupational hazards, but today’s machine shops are generally better equipped than past ones.
Work areas are designed to be clean, well-lit, and fully ventilated to prevent machinists from harm. Asbestos is no longer used to make machine equipment.
However, if workers are in an old factory or workshop, they may still be at risk of developing mesothelioma. Many manufacturing buildings were packed with asbestos as insulation, as well as in the ceiling tiles, flooring, work surfaces, and wall cavities to protect against fire.
Anyone who performs maintenance on these types of buildings is required by law to wear safety equipment and dispose of the asbestos correctly.