Asbestos Exposure in Maintenance Workers

Maintenance workers are responsible for the upkeep of buildings and equipment in a variety of environments. From textile mills to industrial manufacturing plants, maintenance workers are often exposed to high levels of asbestos, making their job one of the most dangerous occupations for asbestos exposure.

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Maintenance Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Maintenance workers are among those most at-risk of asbestos-related diseases due to regular and unprotected exposure to occupational asbestos.

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Before the 1980s, asbestos was used freely in the building and construction industry. Manufacturing plants and commercial buildings were assembled using vast amounts of asbestos as a protective element against heat and fire.

Thousands of products contain asbestos, including building materials (such as wall insulation), tools (to protect against friction), and coverings on boilers and pipes.

The nature of maintenance work lends itself to creating asbestos dust.

Workers could come into contact with asbestos dust during any of their routine job duties, including:

  • Drilling into walls
  • Fixing a boiler
  • Maintaining industrial machinery
  • Removing insulation to gain access to electrical wires

Maintenance Workers and Secondary Asbestos Exposure

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that 1.3 million in the construction and general industry have been exposed to asbestos on the job, and this number increases when looking at secondary occupational exposure.

Maintenance workers would have come into direct contact with asbestos in their place of work, but the tiny asbestos fibers could also have been transported to their homes, unknowingly putting their own family at risk.

In the past, maintenance workers were not given proper equipment or clothing to protect themselves at work and would have traveled home in the same clothes, which were most likely covered in dust. There’s a large chance that particles of asbestos were within this dust.

Asbestos clings to clothes, shoes, and hair, and this environmental exposure can put family members (or workers in other areas of the building) in danger of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

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A 2009 publication looked at asbestos-related diseases in Quebec and found that between 1988 and 2003, 1,348 maintenance and construction workers suffered from asbestos-related diseases. Even though asbestos is no longer used today, there is an ongoing threat from existing asbestos in older buildings.

Maintenance Workers and Asbestos Exposure Today

Nowadays, asbestos has been mostly phased out of new materials. However, lots of asbestos may remain in older buildings, so maintenance workers must still take great care when working in buildings made before 1980.

In these cases, workers are required to wear overalls to minimize any dust from traveling outside of the working area.

Safety standards also mandate that workers be provided with proper breathing equipment and PPE should they come into asbestos. They may also need to attend a training course to understand how to handle and dispose of it properly.

Maintenance Workers Roles and Responsibilities

The role of a maintenance worker is to fix and maintain mechanical equipment, machines, and buildings.

Maintenance workers tasks typically include:

  • Cleaning
  • Painting
  • Planning and undertaking scheduled work
  • Plumbing
  • Repairing machinery
  • Replacing electrical equipment

On any given day, a maintenance worker could be required to check the boiler, replace floor tiles, repair equipment, clean work surfaces, and perform other tasks, meaning that they are rarely confined to one specific area.

This work puts them at a huge risk of coming into contact with asbestos, which can be found throughout old buildings and facilities.

Maintenance Workers and Mesothelioma

While asbestos is no longer used in the building industry, mesothelioma — a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure — is still a threat to many workers today. It can take up to 50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to show, meaning those exposed decades ago could be at risk today.

Asbestos is made of fine fibers, which can be inhaled and attach themselves to the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart. Microscopic fibers can pierce the organ linings, irritate tissues, and trigger cancer cell growth.

Mesothelioma has no known cure but new therapies can offer hope to patients by slowing disease progression and increasing survival times.

Maintenance workers with mesothelioma may need help affording the costs of treatments and other expenses resulting from their diagnosis. Fortunately, workers can receive financial awards through legal action.

Compensation for Maintenance Workers

Maintenance workers who have developed asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma due to workplace asbestos exposure may be able to seek legal compensation.

By working with a specialized mesothelioma lawyer, you can build a case against negligent asbestos manufacturers who put your health at risk.

If you developed mesothelioma after serving as a maintenance worker, you may be entitled to compensation. Our Justice Support Team can connect you to legal resources and help you find treatments for your illness. See how we can help you 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: September 18, 2019

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  3. The link between working with asbestos and mesothelioma – case closed?. Retrieved from: http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2014/01/20/the-link-between-working-with-asbestos-and-mesothelioma-case-closed/. Accessed on May 10, 2018.
  4. Asbestos: Current Knowledge on the Exposure and Diseases of Workers and the General Population in Québec from 2003 to 2009. Retrieved from: https://www.inspq.qc.ca/en/publications/1374. Accessed on May 10, 2018.
  5. Safe Maintenance – Asbestos in Building Maintenance. Retrieved from: https://osha.europa.eu/en/tools-and-publications/publications/e-facts/efact48
    Accessed on May 10, 2018.
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