Workers in most contracting and construction trades face a risk of asbestos exposure and lung disease. OSHA ranks construction and general contracting among the most dangerous industries in the US. Most workers in the contracting trades are familiar with the risks of asbestos exposure and other hazards.
General Contractors Fast Facts (BLS.gov)
- National Employment: 1.6 million
- Similar Occupations: Electricians, carpenters, pipelayers, brick masons, painters
- Previously Exposed: Yes
- Still Being Exposed: Yes
- Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: High
- States with Highest Employment: Florida, California, Texas, New York
While the contracting and construction trades have long been known for the most fatal injuries in most years, many job sites have a less obvious danger: asbestos exposure. The flame-resistant mineral was often used for many construction and contracting materials. In the 1960s, scientists determined that breathing asbestos into the lungs can cause serious lung illnesses, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Research shows that former contractors and construction workers are five times as likely to get mesothelioma as the general US population, according to a 2018 International Journal of Epidemiology study. For certain contractors, such as plumbers, electricians, and carpenters, there is even higher risk.
While materials manufacturers have mostly phased out products that contain asbestos, contaminated building materials persist at thousands of job sites, putting contractors at a higher risk of death.
General Contractors Workers Asbestos Exposure
According to a study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, there are at least 1.3 million contractors that are still at risk today for asbestos exposure. Contractors at even higher risk are demolition workers who tear down old buildings and dispose of debris. But the asbestos exposure risk applies to any contractor who does renovations on older buildings, especially ones built before the 1970s.
Some of the contracting trades where there is a higher risk of exposure are:
- Bulldozer operators
- Crane and hoist operators
- Home renovators
- Insulation workers
- Demolition and wrecking crews
Contractors from many trades can share one job site, so it takes just one negligent employee to put many workers at risk. Asbestos dust can easily spread around a job site and expose dozens of people who never handled asbestos. Worse, workers may bring the dangerous dust home on their clothes and put their families at risk.
Several studies have shown that drywall workers have a higher risk of mesothelioma. Workers may release the fibers into the air when they make cuts in sheetrock and then attach them to the framework of the building. Sheetrock and drywall tape once often contained asbestos. Plasterers even were known to patch holes in drywall sheets with compounds that contained asbestos. Read more about drywall worker asbestos exposure.
Masons and Bricklayers
Years ago, masonry workers once combined raw asbestos into compounds for stones, blocks or bricks. After making these materials, bricklayers also were exposed by cutting the pieces down to size and putting them into place with adhesives made from asbestos. Masonry workers also could create asbestos dust by scraping mortar to ready the surface for new bricks.
General Contractor Asbestos and Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Many mesothelioma lawsuits have been filed on behalf of former contractors who were exposed to asbestos and were diagnosed with mesothelioma. One was a case involving Dellbroook Construction LLC and A-Best Abatement in New Hampshire. The two firms were fined $215,000 for not handling asbestos abatement procedures properly, leading to asbestos exposure to workers and residents. (Topclassactions.com)
Some of the best-known manufacturers of products containing asbestos for contracting projects were WR Grace, Johns Manville, Owens, Corning, Celotex, US Mineral Products, Delaware Insulation, Brunswick Fabrications, Atra Group, and Kentile Floors.