Oil Rig and Oil Refinery Workers Diesel fuel, heating oil, gasoline and kerosene are all products that are made at oil refineries. These industrial factories process and refine crude oil into these different products. Most oil refineries are huge complexes that have numerous buildings adjoining each other with lengthy piping throughout for transporting fluids from building to building. Those who work in oil refineries are vital to the economy of the nation. With the country’s dependency on petroleum, workers perform important jobs, which help keep the country operating smoothly. Working at oil refineries has always carried a high risk of danger due to the highly flammable petroleum. This substance can explode very easily creating dangerous fires that can be deadly. This reason is why asbestos was used in this industry for insulation before warnings of this toxic material were announced in the 1970s.
Asbestos and Oil Workers For many years, vessels that contained highly flammable materials were insulted with asbestos, which included many locations in oil refineries. Asbestos was used for this purpose in the United States as well as other countries throughout the world. Any processes that needed high pressure and high temperatures, which are commonly performed at oil refineries, used pipelines that were lined in asbestos. This lining was not only found in piping, but also in tanks, boilers, ovens, reactors, furnaces, driers, heat exchangers and pumps. Oil refinery workers who worked around these vessels or machines were continually exposed to asbestos insulation or parts. Additionally, workers’ jobs also included maintaining and repairing these machines. This caused them to be in contact with asbestos fibers when handling damaged materials if fibers were released into the environment and were inhaled. Other risks that workers were exposed to were the protective clothing they wore, such as aprons, gloves, shoe covers, pants and facemasks, as these types of protective wear were made with materials that contained asbestos. If damage occurred to these items, fibers would be released and could be inhaled. This brought especially high risks for those that wore asbestos facemasks. There are numerous refinery workers who worked in this field before asbestos warnings were issued in the 1970s that have developed asbestos-related diseases. Many have been diagnosed with asbestosis, mesothelioma and pleural plaques. Unfortunately, many of the managers that worked at refineries knew the dangers of asbestos, but did not warn workers. Now, decades later, many of these workers are losing their lives from exposure to asbestos.