Asbestos Exposure in Machinists

Machinists work across a broad range of industries — from shipyards to skyscraper construction — but the one thing they have in common is that they create precision-cut metal parts. This skilled profession is not without its risks, and meticulous attention to detail is pivotal to avoid errors and injury.

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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.

Did You Know?

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.

Both the making of and installation of gaskets was one of the most common ways for machinists to be exposed to asbestos.

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.

Machinists Roles and Responsibilities

Machinists produce metal parts using power tools such as lathes, drill presses, milling machines, grinders, and scrapers. The spectrum of machinists’ jobs can range from those who mass-produce a singular part, or those to make small batches of customized items.

Machinists use their knowledge of metals to create the correct component for the job, whether it’s a small piston or a working automobile brake.

Machinists are also responsible for maintaining the machines they use and ensuring they are in optimum condition. Routine maintenance and repairs are carried out to minimize downtime on machines, maximizing profits.

Machinists and Mesothelioma

Before the 1980s, machinists were at risk of developing mesothelioma as they came into contact with asbestos on a daily basis. The tiny fibers that break off from blocks of asbestos are friable. Once inhaled, they can puncture the lining of the lungs, heart, or stomach and cause tumors to grow.

Mesothelioma attacks the organs over time, and symptoms can sometimes take up to 50 years to take effect.

Did You Know?

Mesothelioma is such a rare disease that it is often misdiagnosed. Only about 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

If you have worked in an environment that may have put you at risk of asbestos exposure, it’s important to tell your doctor.

Compensation for Machinists With Mesothelioma

Machinists exposed to asbestos on the job and who have since developed mesothelioma may be eligible for legal compensation. Machinists can work with legal specialists to build a case against negligent companies responsible for dangerous asbestos exposure.

Compensation cannot make amends for the tragedy of a mesothelioma diagnosis, but it can help towards loss of earnings and support families.

Our Justice Support Team helps those with mesothelioma connect to legal and medical resources. Get a free case review today.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:


Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Cancer Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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  1. Machinists - What They Do. Retrieved from: Accessed on May 10, 2018.
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