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Construction Workers at High Risk for Asbestos Exposure

bull dozerConstruction workers in general face a higher-than-average risk of encountering a debilitating work-related hazard in their daily nine-to-five.

There is the risk of falling objects. The risk of falls in general. The risk of being struck or crushed by a vehicle or object. There are electrocution risks and various tool injuries.

But our mesothelioma attorneys note a recent report issued by the American Lung Association indicates that asbestos exposure is also extraordinarily high among those who work in the construction industry.

In fact, some 1.3 million construction workers are currently being exposed to the material each day at work.

This is significant because we tend to think of mesothelioma as a disease that only befalls those who worked in certain industrial trades decades ago.

While it is true that asbestos is no longer as widely used in construction, it’s still a legal product in the U.S. What’s more, those working on-site in renovation and demolition projects are more at risk of encountering the material, as it was used so frequently in older buildings. (Even the World Trade Center towers, which were relatively modern buildings, were filled with asbestos.)

Unfortunately, any project wherein the asbestos is disturbed poses a special danger to workers because the fibers are deadly when they become airborne and are inhaled. Workers will likely not know whether they’ve been sickened until many years later, as asbestosis, mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer does not emerge until decades after exposure.

From 1970 to 2000, the asbestosis age-adjusted death rate in the U.S. went from 0.6 per million population to 6.9 per million population.

Those who work in the construction industry are a big part of the reason we have seen this figure increase – and it continues to grow. Some of the more common points of exposure include: boilers, ceiling tiles, drywall, fireproofing materials, flooring, insulation and roof panels.

In 2002, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration released a 68-page booklet “Asbestos Standard for the Construction Industry.” Therein, the agency lays out federal standards for construction employers, subcontractors and workers who come in contact with the fibers.

In minimizing construction worker exposure to the material, OSHA first outlines five “classes” of workers, with Class I workers being those who have the potentially highest asbestos exposure risk and Class 5 workers having the lowest. Among Class I workers are those that involve the removal of asbestos-containing thermal system insulation and sprayed-on or troweled-on surfacing materials. Employers have to presume that any system and surface material found in a pre-1981 construction is loaded with asbestos, and proper precautions must be taken.

Employers are also required to post warning signs in areas where asbestos may be disturbed and workers must be trained in proper handling of asbestos prior to beginning a job where exposure is possible. They must be taught how to recognize asbestos, the adverse health consequences of exposure, proper use, fitting and limitations of respirators, appropriate work practices for performing jobs where asbestos is present and the standards of medical surveillance programs.

Anyone who has worked in construction and has reason to suspect he or she may have been exposed to the material should inform their doctor so that they can receive lung cancer screenings and routine monitoring of conditions. While mesothelioma is a terminal disease, early detection tends to result in longer life expectancy.

Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030​. Offices in Miami and Washington, D.C.


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