There are a number of ways someone can be exposed to asbestos including, when at work, when working in the vicinity of others using asbestos, when laundering clothes covered in asbestos dust, when living in the vicinity of an asbestos producing factory and when working or living in a building containing asbestos to name but a few.
In this article the professions most likely to be exposed to be exposed to asbestos are discussed.
Lagging has been mixed and applied for many years to pipes, boilers, structural steelwork and furnaces etc to provide a heat containing covering to the item.
The lagging applied can be made up of a number of different materials to include fibre glass, foam and asbestos.
It is when people are mixing up and applying asbestos lagging that they are at most risk of suffering from an asbestos related disease such as diffuse pleural thickening, asbestosis, asbestos induced lung cancer or mesothelioma.
The application of asbestos lagging involved laggers pouring large bags of asbestos lagging powder in to a drum of water and then mixing the water and paste together to form a thick insulating paste which was then applied to a surface. The pouring of the lagging powder in to the drum of water caused large plumes of asbestos dust to be emitted in to the working environment which would land all over the lagger. The mixing of the lagging powder and water caused further asbestos dust to be kicked up in to the air.
The application of the asbestos paste to items is also highly dangerous.
Asbestos could also be sprayed in to place in a wet form once mixed which was also highly dangerous due to the amount of asbestos fibres that were sprayed in the air and that came raining down on the worker.
Lagging is one of the most dangerous asbestos professions and laggers are at a high risk of suffering from mesothelioma.
Plumbers and fitters
Plumbers and fitters often encountered asbestos lagging on site when removing old asbestos lagging so the pipes or boiler underneath could be worked on or when applying asbestos to new installations.
The removal of old asbestos lagging usually involved the worker hacking the old asbestos lagging off using a variety of tools such as hacksaws, hammers, crow bars and even their bare hands. This asbestos removal work released millions of asbestos fibres in to the workplace which would land all over the worker and surrounding work surfaces.
The worker would then clean up after their asbestos removal works using tools such as dustpans, brushes, brooms and shovels. This caused the asbestos dust to be kicked up in to the air again.
When applying new asbestos lagging the worker would either mix asbestos lagging as per the above, or use pre-mixed asbestos putty such as “monkey muck” to pack out asbestos glands.
Asbestos string was also cut and used to seal glands and joints. The use of asbestos string also released dangerous asbestos fibres in to the environment.
Carpenters often came in to contact when working on installations containing asbestos or when installing asbestos products such as asbestos containing insulation board or “asbestolux”.
Many places contain asbestos board which has been installed as ceiling boards, wall boards and in asbestos containing fire doors. Asbestos was used due to its fire retardant and acoustic properties.
Carpenters would encounter this asbestos when carrying out rip-outs, modifications and repairs to older properties.
Carpenters would also encounter asbestos when installing asbestos boards on site.
The carpenters would cut the asbestos boards using wood saws, pad saws and circular power saws. The asbestos boards then had there edges smoothed off using a plane. Holes were then drilled in to the boards to allow pipes to pass through them and for fixing purposes. All of these tasks released millions of asbestos fibres in to the working environment.
The carpenters would also have to clean up after themselves each day which caused further asbestos dust to be kicked up in to the air.
Boiler workers would often encounter asbestos lagging on old boilers they were working on, when applying asbestos lagging to new boilers and when using monkey muck and asbestos string to seal glands on boilers.
Boiler workers suffered high exposure to asbestos on a regular basis due to the fact that boilers and their associated pipework carry extremely high temperature water and steam in pipes which needed to be insulated to contain the heat and to protect people from burns.
Electricians were also exposed to asbestos when working on sites installing electrical installations where asbestos lagging was present or being applied.
Electricians also often worked in enclosed loft spaces where loose fill asbestos insulation was in the loft for insulating purposes.
Many electricians also installed asbestos insulated cables on immersion heaters and on boilers.
Electricians would also use pad saws to cut holes in asbestos boards for socket and switch boxes to be mounted on to.
Asbestos is also an insulating material so asbestos board was often cut to shape and secured to walls for fuse boards to be fitted on top of to provide an insulation barrier between the fuse board and the wall.
The above jobs exposed electricians to millions of asbestos fibres on a regular basis.
Many schools in Great Britain contain asbestos on lagged pipe work, in ceiling and wall boards, in fire doors and in other places such as cupboards where asbestos boards were used for shelving.
Teachers over time would be exposed to millions of asbestos fibres when slamming doors which caused asbestos fibres to be released from the doors, walls and ceilings, when pinning children’s work to asbestos walls using drawing pins, when leaning against asbestos pipes and when putting things on and taking things off of asbestos shelves.
There have been hundreds of cases of mesothelioma involving teachers.
Many mechanical items contained asbestos materials. Examples of asbestos containing materials include brake discs, clutch pads and insulating materials in the engine compartment to name but a few.
Mechanics were exposed to high levels of asbestos dust when blowing out asbestos dust from wheel arches with high pressured air lines when changing the asbestos brakes, when removing old asbestos brake pads, when grinding, drilling and chamfering asbestos brake pads to fit a vehicle and when working on asbestos containing clutches.
As mechanics often worked in contained spaces such as within a wheel arch there asbestos exposure was high.
Artexers and plasterers
Artex and plaster often had asbestos mixed in to it as a bonding agent. Artexers and plasteres would mix asbestos based arte up in the same way that asbestos lagging was mixed exposing them to copious amounts of asbestos dust.
Typically artex and plaster mix contained around 3% asbestos.
Many roofers were exposed to asbestos when installing asbestos based roofing tiles or when cutting “Big 6” asbestos corrugated roofing sheets to size and then fitting them.
Asbestos tiles would need to be cut to shape and size using hack saws.
Asbestos corrugated sheeting would need to be cut to shape and size using power saws and then drilled for fixing purposes.
The cutting and drilling of asbestos roofing materials caused copious amounts of asbestos dust to be released in to the air, especially when circular saws were used.
Many more professions were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis to include shipbuilders, shiprepairers, emergency service workers, members of the armed forces and construction workers to name but a few.