What Are My Rights If I’ve Been Exposed to Asbestos?

People tend to think of asbestos as a problem that’s solely confined to older homes. For this reason, they may not realize that asbestos remains a problem aboard many ships that sail the seas today. Ships that were built in the 80s and earlier may in fact have asbestos on board. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for maritime workers to become sick due to asbestos exposure. This can be quite serious, as asbestos exposure has been linked to very serious health complications that can ultimately cause loss of life.

What Is Asbestos?

Often, people mistakenly believe that asbestos is a chemical. Rather, asbestos is a mineral, which inflates in size when it is exposed to heat. It was widely used for a long period of time as a form of cheap insulation. However, over time the health risks that it posed became apparent, and since then many have been working to remove asbestos from environments where it’s present. The danger that it poses comes from inhaling the material, which is easy to do if the material is disturbed (as it would be on a boat), as asbestos is quite brittle.

Why Is Asbestos Dangerous?

As mentioned earlier, asbestos has been linked to a variety of serious medical issues. Prolonged exposure has been linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, all of which are incredibly serious. These medical complications that arise from asbestos exposure have led to the deaths of nearly 100,000 individuals in the United States, as well as even more individuals throughout the world.

Where Might Asbestos Be Located on a Vessel or Shipyard?

In older ships, a maritime worker may expect to find asbestos in a variety of different places. Asbestos could have been used as general insulation within the boat itself. It may also have been used to wrap and protect ship components like engines and boilers. Since these components are often ones that maritime workers will find themselves around often, the risk for significant exposure to asbestos (if it is present on the boat) is very high. Asbestos is most likely to be encountered in any older structures that might be present in the shipyard. Most likely, it will have been used as a form of insulation. However, it could also be present in an older vessel that’s under repair in the shipyard.

How Is Asbestos Regulated?

Given the threat that asbestos poses to the health of workers, the detection and removal is governed by the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA). These guidelines clearly spell out what employers are supposed to do when asbestos is present in any given work environment, as well as what steps they are required to take in order to remove the threat that the asbestos poses. If an employer fails to follow these guidelines, then a worker is entitled to seek compensation and damages from that employer.

What Should I Do If I Believe that I’ve Been Exposed?

The most important thing to do is to seek medical treatment immediately. Asbestos exposure is quite serious, and the health risks that it poses can only be obviated with preventative treatment. The treatment of mesothelioma in particular benefits from early detection and proactive medical action.

Once you have sought the medical attention necessary to deal with asbestos exposure, you will want to pursue compensation for your medical bills. Depending upon where the exposure took place and who or what was at fault for the exposure, there are multiple avenues through which you can pursue compensation, such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). A qualified maritime attorney will be able to assess the facts in your case, figure out which laws apply, and pursue your claim or claims to the fullest extent possible.