There are three main fuel sources for electrical power plants. One is hydro or water propulsion. The second type is energy from is fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. The third source is thermo-nuclear power. Alternate fuel sources like wind, tidal and solar are all making advancements, but they still can’t match the efficiency and economics the big three offer.
All power plants use a combination of three steps to produce electricity. First, a fuel source is consumed and turned into energy. Next, the energy propels turbines that energize the third system which is the electrical generators. These systems all involve high temperatures that create a fire risk. Over many decades, asbestos was commonly used to insulate and fireproof America’s generation stations, putting power plant workers at high risk for asbestos exposure.
Power Plant Worker Roles and Responsibilities
Electrical generation plants are huge facilities that produce hundreds or thousands of megawatts. Power plants have three specific divisions where skilled workers are employed.
These roles include:
- Machine operators who monitor and control electrical production equipment. This can be boilers, turbines or support mechanisms. Operators ensure all components are serviceable at all times.
- Distributors who manage transformers, power converters and circuit breakers. They ensure power loads are distributed at the proper rate so that electrical flow is never interrupted.
- Dispatchers analyze required power demand. They are responsible for making sure peak demand times are anticipated and allowed for in overall power supplies.
These three areas have distinct roles for experts who support the entire power production process. Machine operators have the most general purpose, while distributors and dispatchers have more specialized responsibilities.
Some of the skilled workers found in power plants are:
- Machinists and millwrights who make and maintain mechanical components.
- Electricians and power line professionals who support internal and external lines.
- Plumbers, steamfitters and boiler makers who control high- pressure systems.
- Engineers specializing in electrical, mechanical and civil infrastructure.
- Maintenance personnel that keep facilities clean and orderly.
- General tradespeople who construct and renovate structures.
- Clerical support workers who perform administration work.
Because power plants produce massive amounts of heat during electrical generation, cooling and fire protection was a continuous challenge. Power plants required materials that were excellent insulators for both thermal transfer and electric conductivity. They also needed fireproof products that were strong, non-corrosive and lightweight. Power plants used vast quantities of these all-purpose materials, so they needed a low cost and readily available substance. Asbestos met every requirement except for worker health safety.
Power Plant Workers and Asbestos Exposure
There are hundreds of power plants in America. Asbestos was widely installed in every part of power plant operation from the 1920s until the mid-1980s. Practically every worker employed in power plants during those years experienced asbestos exposure.
These are some of the common asbestos-containing components used in electrical generation facilities:
- General insulation around boilers and steam rooms
- Fireproofing on floors, walls and ceilings
- Filler in cement powder
- Gaskets and sealants for pipe joints
- Coatings for electric wires and cables
- Protection for electric panels and breakers
- Paints, glues, and mastic adhesives
- Firebricks and insulation blocks
- Spray-on pulp insulation
Asbestos is most dangerous when workers are handling and forming it from raw states to finished products. Once asbestos products are installed, sealed and left inert, they’re relatively safe. It is when asbestos materials are disturbed that microscopic fibers are released into the air and form deadly dust clouds.
Mesothelioma Justice Network Brief
Asbestos dust was common in power plants. That’s during maintenance periods as well as initial installation. It wasn’t only workers directly cutting, shaping and fitting asbestos who were at exposure risk. Everyone in the power plant facility inhaled airborne asbestos. That included second-hand exposure to office and administration personnel
Power Plant Workers and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a severe form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Power plant workers who inhaled asbestos fibers in their workplace absorbed tiny particles in their mesothelium which is the lung lining. Heavy asbestos exposure over long periods presented an extreme risk for workers developing mesothelioma. This form of lung cancer is usually deadly.
While long and heavy asbestos exposure increases the likelihood that a power plant employee will develop mesothelioma, everyone who inhaled asbestos particles is at risk. A tragic fact about developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure is that it can take decades for the symptoms to manifest.
Compensation for Power Plant Workers with Mesothelioma
Compensation is available for mesothelioma victims. It is likely that you can be compensated for medical expenses and lost income if you’re a power plant worker who has developed mesothelioma. Your family members can also apply for compensation on your behalf. The process can include seeking punitive damages against negligent asbestos product manufacturers. Families can also file wrongful death lawsuits.