The lingering threat of asbestos to shipyard workers

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2024 | Maritime Law, Offshore accidents

Shipyard workers regularly brave dangerous conditions, from falling to equipment malfunctions and fires and working in suffocating cramped spaces. Yet, there is one silent threat that is easy to miss: asbestos. Despite efforts to reduce its use, the mineral continues to pose a serious health risk. Even more alarming, it can take years before symptoms show.

Why asbestos is still a health risk

The insulating qualities, low cost, and availability of asbestos made it a popular component in shipbuilding. But by the late 1970s, people were starting to realize the dangers of asbestos, prompting efforts to stop its use.

However, this does not mean that ships today no longer have asbestos. Many older vessels constructed with the mineral are still in service or are being used for parts. Asbestos remains harmless if undisturbed, but construction, repair and maintenance on these ships can release its fibers into the air.

Inhaled asbestos fibers can stay in the lungs and cause harm over time. Individuals who breathe in asbestos typically only experience symptoms after 20 to 50 years from exposure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) places the responsibility on employers to safeguard workers from asbestos exposure. However, what happens when those efforts fall short?

What you can do if you suspect asbestos exposure

Exposure to asbestos can lead to life-threatening diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Individuals who experience symptoms of asbestos-related diseases should see a doctor immediately. Early detection can greatly influence treatment options.

Additionally, there are state and federal laws that protect maritime workers and offer a path to compensation. A worker might be able to take legal action against their employer for exposing them to asbestos, file an Asbestos Trust Fund claim or pursue other options.

Asbestos, despite its small size, can cause significant health problems. If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, consider consulting an attorney for legal guidance. With their help, you might be able to recover compensation that can financially support your medical care and treatment.