Shipyard Workers

Shipyard Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Occupational Asbestos Exposure for Shipyard Workers

Throughout much of the 20th century, shipyard workers performed duties for an industry that used truly astronomical amounts of asbestos. Riddled throughout military and commercial vessels and found in a variety of machinery, products, and building materials, asbestos was present throughout the nation’s thousands of shipyards and exposed countless workers to a mineral that would later cause them to develop devastating health conditions.

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, past employment in a shipyard may allow you to seek compensation for your losses.

SWMW Law is known nationally for fighting on behalf of asbestos exposure victims. Our team has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for shipyard workers, Navy veterans, families, and workers in other at-risk occupations and has prevailed in high stakes cases against powerful corporations and insurance carriers. If you have a potential case, we want to help.

SWMW Law serves shipyard workers and families nationwide and offers FREE consultations. To speak with an attorney about your legal options, call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online.

How Shipyard Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos

Shipyard workers perform important work that supports our military capabilities and the ever-demanding needs of a growing economy where trade and transportation by ship are critical. 

Unfortunately, these invaluable workers were for the better part of a century exposed to harmful asbestos throughout military and civilian vessels, shipyards, and other products and property. In fact, researchers estimate that as many as 3.5 million Americans have been exposed to asbestos in shipyards – with the mid-20th century being the peak period for exposure. The result has been decade after decade of shipyard workers being diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other devastating asbestos diseases at rates far higher than the general population.

Shipyard workers’ elevated risk for asbestos diseases stems from the variety of asbestos-containing materials in shipyards. Ships built for both the U.S. Navy and commercial buyers were filled with asbestos, a mineral that was resistant to heat and corrosion and ideal for insulation and components that needed to withstand extreme temperatures from engines and battles. In fact, everything from the hulls of ships to their inner workings and safety equipment contained asbestos.

For shipyard workers who built, serviced, and repaired these ships, exposure was a daily risk. These risks were exacerbated by duties that required sawing, sanding, cutting, and grinding, which released harmful asbestos fibers into the air; by tasks performed in cramped and unventilated quarters; and by any work involving asbestos insulation, which has been identified as a major cause of asbestos disease in shipyard workers. Workers who handled or worked near asbestos-containing boilers, engine rooms, piping systems, and other critical ship components faced extremely high risks of being exposed to the harmful mineral, as did shipyard workers who assisted in overhauling or decommissioning older vessels. 

Workers not directly exposed to asbestos found on and below the decks of ships still faced high exposure risks to asbestos found throughout shipyards. This includes the asbestos dust and fibers from materials that were worked on or disturbed during construction of vessels; demolition of decommissioned ships; repairs; and the various parts, cargo, and machinery that were constantly being moved on and off vessels while they were docked in shipping and receiving bays. Various machinery and equipment used by shipyard workers also contained asbestos.

The scope of asbestos exposure on American shipyards cannot be understated. With the U.S. Navy being the largest domestic consumer of asbestos products during much of the 20th century and the mineral so vital to shipbuilders of the time, studies have shown that roughly a third of all mesothelioma diagnoses can be linked back to asbestos exposure in the U.S. Navy or shipyards. 

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Sources of Asbestos Exposure for Shipyard Workers

The U.S. Navy and private shipbuilding industry used truly astronomical amounts of asbestos in ships and placed countless shipyard workers, contractors, and service members at risk of exposure during everyday duties. And while the U.S. government began to regulate the use of asbestos beginning in the 1980s, shipyard workers who worked on or around older vessels continued to be exposed to asbestos well into the 21st century. 

Some of the asbestos-containing equipment and products shipyard workers encountered include:

  • Adhesives
  • Boilers
  • Construction materials, including joint compounds
  • Cements
  • Hydraulic assemblies
  • Insulation
  • Gaskets  and packing
  • Paint and coatings
  • Paneling
  • Pumps
  • Steam traps
  • Thermal Piping Insulations
  • Turbines
  • Valves

Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products found in shipyards have historically attempted to evade liability by claiming that the U.S. Navy or other contractors were responsible for workers’ exposure because they authorized the use of asbestos. They raised these contentions while knowing that shipyard workers are largely unable to sue the Navy for asbestos exposure, and despite the extensive evidence showing that they knew about the health risks posed by asbestos as early as the 1930s, they did nothing to protect vulnerable workers.

Fortunately, there is ample legal precedent to show that shipyard workers can successfully obtain justice and compensation by holding manufacturers and other liable entities accountable for negligently selling, distributing, supplying, or otherwise exposing workers to asbestos. 

Many asbestos manufacturers and shipyard companies remain in business and devote considerable effort and funds to defending themselves against asbestos lawsuits. At SWMW Law, we have the experience and resources shipyard workers and families need to fight back against powerful corporations that care more about profits than people. 

  • American Association for Justice
  • MATA
  • The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis

Studies Link Shipyard Work to Increased Mesothelioma Risks

The CDC recognizes that shipyard workers face increased risks of developing health problems due to their occupational asbestos exposure. Supporting this are a number of studies conducted over the years linking work aboard ships and work in shipyards to asbestos exposure and a greater likelihood of developing asbestos-related diseases. Some examples include:

  • A 2018 Italian study conducted a 55-year follow-up of workers who were exposed to asbestos at the Shipyard of Genoa found a substantial disease burden, including excess mortality for all cancers, pleural mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and lung, and respiratory tract diseases such as asbestosis, among shipyard workers. Researchers also found nearly a quarter of all lung cancer deaths were attributed to asbestos exposure. 
  • A 2007 study published in the journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine provided extensive insight into the persistent and international scope of asbestos exposure in shipyards. In addition to citing previous studies showing high rates of asbestos disease and death among shipyard workers in various countries, researchers explored how shipyard workers continued to be exposed to asbestos long after its peak use in the mid-20th century and implementation of asbestos regulations. 
  • A 1985 study published in the American Journal of Public Health which analyzed rates of asbestos disease in the families of Los Angeles shipworkers found over 11% of wives of shipyard workers who had been employed in shipyards for at least 20 years showed signs of pulmonary asbestos disease, as did a significant percentage of sons and daughters. The study also found that asbestosis was present in 64% of the shipyard workers and most of the workers studied were exposed to airborne asbestos from the installation and removal of insulation, rather than any direct work with asbestos. 

Compensation for Shipyard Workers Exposed to Asbestos

Shipyard workers who worked with and around asbestos-laden materials are generally precluded from filing asbestos claims against the U.S. Navy under the Federal Tort Claims Act. However, other avenues of compensation are available for workers who’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, as well as families who’ve lost loved ones to an asbestos-related disease. 

This includes claims filed with asbestos bankruptcy trusts funded by asbestos companies that reorganized or went out of business under the U.S. bankruptcy code. It may also include civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits in which victims and families seek compensation from solvent companies that negligently endangered workers with their products and negligent acts. 

  • Asbestos Trust Funds. After decades of exposing workers to asbestos-containing products they knew to be harmful, asbestos companies were ordered to fund trusts created specifically to compensate victims harmed by asbestos exposure and families who lost loved ones to asbestos-related diseases. These funds can provide meaningful compensation to shipyard workers and their loved ones. 
  • Personal Injury Lawsuits. Shipyard workers may be able to pursue compensation through civil lawsuits filed against asbestos companies, suppliers, and other liable entities that are still in business. Personal injury suits require plaintiffs to prove their claims, be they claims of negligence, products liability, or other causes of action. 
  • Wrongful Death Actions. Wrongful death and survival actions allow eligible family members of shipyard workers harmed by asbestos to recover compensation for their losses. This can include lost financial and emotional support, loss of consortium, and other damages. 

Successful asbestos litigation demands the insight of attorneys who are intimately familiar with exposure sources, asbestos products and manufacturers, and state-by-state laws and regulations that impact victims. In fact, quality of legal representation can make all the difference when it comes to successfully resolving an asbestos case and maximizing compensation.

At SWMW, we’re dedicated to handling challenging and high stakes asbestos cases and have the breadth of experience to take on even the toughest claims. As a firm with extensive resources and a reputation for holding companies accountable, we’re also capable of helping clients fight back against powerful corporations and insurance carriers.

Examples of Our Results

SWMW Law has recovered over $750 million for clients, including millions in compensation for victims who were diagnosed with mesothelioma and cancer due to their work-related asbestos exposure. This includes shipyard workers, sailors, and workers in a variety of other at-risk occupations.

Some examples of our results include:

  • $11.5 million trial verdict for a U.S. Navy machinist diagnosed with mesothelioma. This case was litigated in Virginia. 
  • $4.3 million settlement for a U.S. Navy seaman, boiler operator, and laborer from Missouri diagnosed with mesothelioma. 
  • $725,000 settlement for a Massachusetts shipyard worker/mechanic diagnosed with non-smoking lung cancer. 
  • $675,000 settlement for a California shipyard/refinery worker diagnosed with smoking lung cancer. 

Call For a FREE Consultation: (855) 744-1922

SWMW Law is dedicated to helping victims and families in the fight against corporations that care more about profits than people. Comprised of award-winning attorneys, our team has helped clients take on powerful defendants in courts across the country and has helped countless victims and families secure the justice and compensation they deserved. 

If you have questions about an asbestos claim involving work in the shipyard industry, call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.

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