The heat proof properties of asbestos made it very useful to several metal industries in the past. Smelting, insulating, and welding metal products require heat proofing. Asbestos was widely used in different metal works, putting metal workers at risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
Metal works is a broad group of industries including refineries, steel mills, foundries, sheet metal shops, and other industrial metal producers. Very high heat is necessary in order to create metal products. Asbestos was commonly used in metal works to heat-proof and insulate machinery, tools, and protective gear. Frequent asbestos exposure caused many workers do develop health problems like mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Secondhand exposure can also cause mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. When people who work with asbestos go home to their families, sometimes they brought home asbestos on their clothes and hair.
Some metal works occupations that involved asbestos products:
- Refinery workers
- Foundry workers
- Steel mill workers
- Hot top workers/hot toppers
- Forge men
- Furnace operators
- Smelter operators
- Heavy equipment operators
- Painters and sandblasters
- Machine operators and machine tenders
- Sheet metal workers
- Aluminum workers
- Iron workers
- Supervisors and foremen
- Maintenance workers
Many metal occupation groups, including metalsmiths, required workers to wear gear to protect workers from high heats. Asbestos was often used to line protective gear to make it fire and heat proof for workers. This protective gear helps protect workers who need to weld or do other high-heat jobs, but also exposed many people to asbestos.
Sheet metal workers have often been exposed to asbestos through insulation covering ventilation systems. In some cases, they worked closely with the insulators as they were covering metal beams and ducts with asbestos materials. Asbestos was even sprayed onto the metal sometimes, causing a large amount of asbestos to become airborne and be breathed in by nearby workers. Sheet metal workers also used gaskets which were made with asbestos.
Pipes, ventilation, machinery, boilers, and more products were insulated with asbestos. Many metal works had to work with or around these items in factories, on ships, or at mills. Making repairs, welding, or cutting these items often released asbestos into the air and exposed workers. Maintenance and repair workers, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, and welders could all be responsible for fixing asbestos-insulated products.