Although lagger is a job title used mostly in the United Kingdom, the same job exists in the United States. What the English call laggers, the United States simply calls insulation installers. Both terms indicate the same profession, and those working in this position have the same duties and responsibilities.
The primary responsibility of laggers and insulation installers is to apply insulating materials such as polyurethane, fiberglass, or cork to equipment and materials that require protection from heat and fire. The insulation is fit on or around ducts, pipes, vats, boilers components, generators, and much more. Laggers also pack insulation into walls, ceiling spaces, and under floors in homes and buildings. They can install bulk insulation prefabricated sheets. In addition to the inside of walls, ceilings, and floors, insulation also gets placed around hot water heaters, steam pipes, and any other hot equipment.
Laggers and Asbestos
The dangers that laggers face are many. They must often work in confined spaces, from heights, or with dangerous machinery. One of the greatest hazards laggers face, however, is from asbestos. Although asbestos is no longer used in new construction and insulation jobs, working with asbestos was common in the past.
Laggers once had to handle asbestos fibers by hand to prepare them for use. One process forced laggers to hold giant bags of asbestos fibers or chunks and slowly dump the material into a rotating drum. Water or other adhesives were added to the drum of asbestos to create a paste. This paste was then spread directly onto materials and over areas that required insulating. During the course of a standard workday, it would be common for loose asbestos fibers to fly up into the air, surrounding the lagger and other workers in the area.
Another way laggers used asbestos was to roll it up with adhesives or water into plugs that were then inserted into small spaces or openings. While it seemed relatively safe at the time, especially when compared to the jobs of those working around them, it turns out that laggers might have had the most dangerous duties of all. Even after the dangers of asbestos became known, some companies refused to stop using the material. In some cases, companies told laggers that their new insulation material was asbestos-free, although after government testing it was shown to still contain up to 12% asbestos.