Freight and material handlers’ responsibilities entail a wide range of tasks for managing and transporting goods. Jobs include tractor-trailer operators, dragline operators, conveyor positions, ship loaders, packagers, off loaders and industrial truck drivers. Regardless of their specialized duties, these workers combined help keep the economy moving forward by transporting goods and commodities from production sites, storage sites, loading docks, cities and countries. Freight and material handlers provide the services of moving goods directly from the assembly line to their final destination. Today in the United States, there are an average of three million truck drivers and four million additional individuals who work in some sort of freight and material handling position.
Asbestos and Freight Handling
Because freight and material handlers are continually preparing, checking and moving goods, they unfortunately have the risk of coming into contact with or being around materials that are toxic. This can sometimes cause these workers to be exposed to asbestos and perhaps contract an asbestos disease. Truck drivers, particularly those who own and operator their own rigs, are often responsible for maintaining their own vehicles with regards to inspecting and repairing problems, which include brake pads, brake linings, electrical systems and clutch facings. These automotive materials can possibly pose a health risk since many contain dangerous amounts of asbestos.
With freight and material handlers encountering materials that pass through and are shipped around the world, chances are that many of these workers were exposed to a considerable amount of asbestos. This is particularly true for those workers who handled or transported goods from 1950 to 1990. During these years over 3000 products were made with asbestos. To make matters worse, many employers were aware of the dangers of this material, but did not provide information or safety and protective wear to their employees.
Moreover, along with handling possibly dangerous toxic materials, forklifts, trucks and other heavy machinery that was used for transporting most probably contained materials with asbestos in their clutch facings and linings of their brakes. Additionally, scientists in Italy conducted a study that showed that asbestos fibers were found inside the cabs of some trucks, compounding the dangers of this occupational hazard. This could cause even drivers who never maintained trucks or never handled any asbestos materials to remain at risk for developing an asbestos disease or mesothelioma.