One of Australia’s biggest electrician unions has issued a warning saying hundreds of members have died from mesothelioma after decades of working on meter boards containing asbestos.
The Electrical Trades Union has called on the individual states there to carry out extensive audits on the equipment of all government-owned buildings and homes with meters built before 1983 in order to ensure the safety of its members.
Boston mesothelioma lawyers know this is not the first time electricians have been identified as a group at high risk for developing the deadly disease.
We’ve talked a lot in our Massachusetts Mesothelioma Lawyer’s Blog about those who previously worked in shipbuilding and automotive manufacturing. But electricians are at equal risk.
In addition to being used as a heat insulator and fire-retardant, asbestos was also commonly used to reinforce or bind cement and plastic. So it was often used in building materials like drywall, plaster, floor tiles, roofing and insulation. Additionally, it was sometimes used in electrical panel partitions, electrical cloth and electric wiring insulation. The level of risk depends on when it was manufactured. The older the material is, the more likely it is to contain asbestos.
From 1990 to 1999, those who had previously been in the construction industry – including electricians – accounted for 24 percent of all mesothelioma deaths. Electricians accounted for 4.4 percent of those.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the most common safety risks for electricians are falls, electrocution, exposure to overhead objects and exposure airborne contaminants, including asbestos.
There have been a handful of large lawsuits filed over the last 10 years against companies that allegedly exposed electricians to asbestos, causing them to develop mesothelioma in their later years. In 2006, an Ohio appellate court ruled that General Motors was aware that one electrician was being endangered by exposure to asbestos in wiring and the insulation on steam pipes. The following year, the family of a California electrician who died of mesothelioma settled for $2.3 million with six defendants. And then in 2010, a Philadelphia jury found Rockwell Automation Inc. (i.e., Allen-Bradley Company) liable in the asbestos-related death of a Navy electrician’s mate, and awarded his family $6.5 million. He had died in 2008 at age 71, less than a year after he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.
In Australia, a warning was sent out after it was confirmed that an electrician in the southern region of the country was exposed to the dust while working on a meter.
Although asbestos isn’t common in American electric meters, it is common in a lot of older structures. While it generally won’t pose a risk if it’s encapsulated or undisturbed, electricians are often required to rewire buildings, which means they need to crawl through or reach into areas where they might disturb the asbestos.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in New England, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Fears electricians at risk of asbestos exposure, Oct. 29, 2012, By Michael Vincent, ABC News
More Blog Entries:
Massachusetts Mesothelioma Awareness: Asbestos Exposure During DIY Projects, Aug. 19, 2012, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog