Because many different types of machines that can be operated as part of a job exist, the category of machine operatives is wide-reaching. Working any type of machine in a factory, on a remote job site, in construction, or in a service-related industry qualifies a person to be a machine operative. Many different types of machine operatives are at risk of asbestos exposure and asbestos-related mesothelioma, but medical experts all agree that the riskiest machine operative jobs are those with grinding or friction machines.
Machine Operatives and Asbestos
Grinding and friction machine operatives often work with braking systems on these machines that use pads made with asbestos. Even if the asbestos pads are removed from the machines, asbestos can still lurk inside. This asbestos is in the form of dust, and it shoots into the air every time the machine is started. According to a report put out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1986, grinding down an old brake block can potentially unleash asbestos at the rate of 7 million fibers per cubic meter.
Another type of machine operative position that has the potential to expose the operator to excessive amounts of asbestos is in the service industry. Floor buffing, polishing, and resurfacing may seem safe, but this all depends on where the job is being done. Beginning in the early 20th century and continuing through the 1970s, many flooring surfaces contained large amounts of asbestos fibers. As soon as a service worker stripped off the bottom layer of wax on the floor, asbestos fibers were flung into the air. Buffing the floor afterward only made it worse.
Machine operatives often come into contact with old materials that contain asbestos. Asbestos fibers separate very easily into tiny dusty particles, and the moving parts of many of these machines create a breeze that pushes them upward and through the air in the general area of the operator. If the operator works on enough asbestos-containing materials, they will inevitably breathe the asbestos dust into their lungs where it becomes embedded and can cause mesothelioma. The only way to avoid this is to avoid working with materials that have asbestos in them. Unfortunately, the demands of the job do not always allow for time to test each material or surface that must be machined.