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Warehouse Worker Asbestos Exposure

Workers in many professions may have been exposed to asbestos at some point in their careers. However, warehouse worker asbestos exposure has proven to be an ongoing problem.

Warehouse workers include not just those who directly worked with asbestos-laden material, but also those who worked in proximity to building trades that exposed them to asbestos dust and fibers.

At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our Boston asbestos injury lawyers recognize that warehouse workers have historically faced an outsized risk due to the fact that asbestos has historically been contained in so many tools, building materials and machinery.

No amount of human exposure to asbestos contact is considered safe. However, warehouse workers may have been exposed to asbestos heavily and constantly over a period of several years. This heightens the potential risk of developing diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other related conditions.

Warehouse Work Exposure to Asbestos

The World Health Organization reports that an estimated 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at work. Although there are heavy regulations and restrictions in the U.S., the substance isn’t banned outright. That has meant some workers are still actively at risk. On top of that, many older structures are full of asbestos in the floors, walls, wire covering and pipe insulation.

Some of the ways warehouse workers may face a higher risk of exposure are:

  • Receiving Goods. Warehouse workers often receive goods that are delivered to the warehouse for storage. They may also be responsible for loading merchandise from the trucks to make sure they match the delivery orders (i.e., bill, invoice or delivery note). They may also have the responsibility to make sure there are no obvious defects and al goods are intact. If any of these products contain asbestos, they may be exposed to the fibers in the process of unloading, loading or inspection.
  • Operation of Equipment. While there are a fair number of workers who will physically pick up and carry products off trucks or ships, there are some situations wherein that may be impossible. That may require that they operate certain equipment to remove the heavy cargo. Operators of heavy equipment may be exposed to asbestos if the machinery is moving any kind of asbestos-laden products or is distributing any type of asbestos-containing construction material or other matter. In factory-warehouse settings, those who operate equipment may also be exposed to asbestos if they are working with asbestos-laden products
  • Merchandise Sorting. Warehouses are responsible for storage of a wide range of products and material, and these goods must be grouped together and inventoried. Sometimes, this process involves disturbing these materials, which can be dangerous if they contain asbestos.
  • Merchandise Storing. Warehouse workers must work, tag, mark, label and stock items and ascertain the best methods for storage.
  • Fill Orders. Workers in warehouses must fill orders, retrieve them for dispatch and make sure they are in good condition before they are boxed, wrapped, or labeled and delivered to the room wherein they are sent to the customer.

Other possible means of exposure include:

  • Workers who do not work directly with asbestos material, but may walk through work areas where it’s being used or in close proximity to such work.
  • Workers who do repair and general maintenance, including electrical work and repairs on floors, ceilings, walls and roofs.
  • Machinists who work on production equipment.

Maintenance crews may be exposed to some of the highest risks in warehouses, as they may be working directly with older, asbestos-laden building and construction materials, equipment and tools.

Other Warehouse Asbestos Exposures

Additional scenarios have been outlined in litigation. For example, a warehouse owner in New York was charged federally for violation of Clean Air Act standards for warehouse worker asbestos exposure when he knowingly used untrained, temporary workers to help dispose of asbestos against federal regulations.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an investigator with the Asbestos Control Bureau visited the warehouse and observed several people – including a 16-year-old child – working in a large trash receptacle next to a loading dock. The inspector observed large quantities of asbestos in and around the waste bin – and none of the workers had proper personal protective equipment. There was also no warning signs in or near the trash bin.

Federal investigators with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were called in and discovered inside the warehouse some 90 bags of dry, friable asbestos in the loading dock.

EPA regulations and those outlined in 310 CMR 7.15 are very specific in terms regarding how asbestos removal and asbestos disposal must be handled.

Among those requirements:

  • Asbestos must be adequately wetted to prevent friable condition and visible emissions;
  • Asbestos-containing waste that has been adequately wetted must be placed in bags that are then vacuum-sealed;
  • Workers are to be given appropriate protective equipment/ gear.

These sorts of violations at warehouses are nothing new. Back in 1980, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on concerns that warehouse workers in Illinois had been exposed to asbestos at a hose supplier and warehouse. Officials determined at least four workers had been exposed to heightened levels of asbestos, and may be at risk of developing asbestos-related illness, such as mesothelioma.

Rights of Warehouse Workers Exposed to Asbestos

The harmful effects of asbestos exposure are not manifested until years after the initial exposure. That means those warehouse workers in New York may not know for several decades whether their exposure to this substance will result in health consequences.

Still, those who know they have been negligently exposed should contact an experienced Boston mesothelioma lawyer because we can help individuals determine how best to preserve any future claims. The latent nature of the disease means a cause of action (i.e., a diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease) may not arise for years. But when it does, you want to be ready. You may also be entitled to compensation for the cost of monitoring your health.

Warehouse workers or former warehouse workers who have already received a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness should immediately consult with an experienced injury attorney.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.

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