Wisconsin Shipyard Company Cited for Exposing Workers to Asbestos, Lead

OSHA levies $1.4 million in fines for ship worker exposure to asbestos, lead, arsenic and other dangerous substances.

A century-old shipyard company has been fined almost $1.4 million for exposing ship repair workers to asbestos, lead and other dangerous substances without adequate warning and protection, in violation of federal work safety laws. In an August 1, 2016 news release, the US Department of Labor announced multiple citations given to Fraser Shipyards Inc. by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA for work-safety violations while retrofitting a 56-year-old ship pursuant to a $10 million contract.

From the DOL news release, readers can link to the actual 94-page OSHA citation document.

The work was performed on the Herbert C. Jackson at shipyards in Superior, Wisconsin, an inland port on Lake Superior. Violations concerning asbestos include:

  • Failure to provide training about asbestos
  • Failure to identify and tell workers where asbestos was located in disregard of the company's asbestos compliance program
  • Failure to inform workers that asbestos was present in areas where piping and equipment were cut, which can release asbestos fibers into the air
  • And more

According to the news release, OSHA learned that the company's management had been aware that asbestos and lead were present on the ship. The company had previously been cited for asbestos violations in 2000.

Asbestos a Known Hazard of Ship Repair and Demolition

Asbestos in shipbuilding is a hazard to anyone who works on, repairs or demolishes ships, both military and privately owned. When an asbestos-containing product is disturbed in any way whatsoever (such as handling, cutting, drilling, scraping, removing, vibration, etc.) it releases asbestos fiber into the air. These are microscopic fibers that, when breathed in, can cause fatal cancers and disabling lung diseases, usually decades after exposure. When a product containing asbestos is cut, cracked or smashed or becomes worn, the asbestos in it may become friable, meaning subject to crumbling and release into the air.

Because of the constant movement of vessels on strong currents and in high winds, impact and vibration causes wear and tear of surfaces, equipment and infrastructure that can increase friability of asbestos in those products and structures. In addition, repair and demolition of ships can easily release friable fibers of asbestos unless the work safety precautions required by law are strictly followed.

Common sources of asbestos on board ships include:

  • Flooring such as non-skid, concrete or tile
  • Insulation and fire proofing materials
  • Glues, putties and sealants
  • Doors, walls and ceilings
  • Gaskets
  • Ropes
  • Lagging on pipes
  • Packing
  • Electrical cables and wires
  • Fire blankets
  • And many more

Anyone who has worked on board a ship in any capacity, performed maintenance or repairs, or participated in ship breaking or demolition, who develops an asbestos-related illness like mesothelioma, lung cancer, other cancer, or asbestosis should speak with a personal injury lawyer about what options may exist for legal remedies, including a possible personal injury lawsuit. Similarly, anyone whose loved one passed away under these conditions should seek legal advice about a potential wrongful death suit.

The lawyers at Brayton Purcell LLP, with four offices in the western United States, represent victims of asbestos exposure in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits throughout the country.