The repair, construction, assembly and outfitting of boilers— were all in a day’s work for a boilermaker. Responsible for fixing gaskets, installing, testing and inspecting boilers for safety, their work can often be dangerous and involve intensive labor. Due to the longevity of boilers—with average life spans of over 50 years—boilermakers are responsible for their constant repair and maintenance. It is especially important that the boilermakers of today take extra caution when repairing old boilers, as the possibility of coming into contact with asbestos insulation still exists.
Prior to the 1980s, the work of a boiler man would often involve exposure to asbestos fibers. The use of asbestos as an insulator was especially prevalent in boilers due to its exceptional fire-resistant properties. When disturbed during maintenance, airborne particles of asbestos would become friable and expose workers to the hazard of inhalation of this dangerous dust.
Mr. C’s story
Whether your heat went out, your morning shower was cold, or you swore you heard a clunking sound, the boilermaker was there to fix these common woes. One such boilermaker was Mr. C, who worked in the late 1960s and 1970s in the Chicago area. His work dispatched him to facilities such as hospitals, schools, the local fast food joints, large office buildings, and private homes. He belonged to his local union pipefitters association and worked in a variety of jobs that took him all over Chicago and the suburbs. His jobs would last as long as it took to get the heat going again. He often worked long hours in confined basement settings with poor ventilation.
His exposure to asbestos occurred during the daily repairs to the boilers when their insulation jackets were removed, flange gaskets needed repair, or control parts were replaced. These parts were often coated in asbestos insulation. Further, he often would use an asbestos rope to fit between the seams of the boiler. The crushing or disturbance of this insulation would cause the fibers to become airborne, and easily inhalable.
Asbestos was also often used to insulate heat exchangers, tanks, or water heaters. Not having been warned about the dangers of asbestos, Mr. C often wore no protection and breathed in the asbestos particles as they were released into the air. Sadly today, due to his long exposure to asbestos as a boiler man, Mr. C now suffers from asbestosis—a serious condition that scars the lung tissues and makes breathing difficult.
As a result of his asbestos injuries, Mr. C sought the legal counsel of Cooney & Conway to represent his interests against the companies that left him exposed. If you or a loved one were a boilermaker and were diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, it is highly important that you speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal remedy.