Grinding machine operatives work in a number of settings, including construction, demolition, manufacturing, and transportation. Grinding machine operatives can produce lathed or milled parts for machinery, electronic devices, or for construction materials. They often work with conventional, mechanical grinding machines that are either handheld or stationary. Larger, more modern grinders are computerized. For grinding machine operatives operating computerized grinders, their job can be simply overseeing the computerized and robotic machines, or they may have to move, turn over, or otherwise control how the material is going into the grinder.
Grinding machine operatives can work in factories or they can work in the field at job sites. No matter where they work, there are dangers inherent to the job. Of course, it is always dangerous to work around fast-moving machinery and devices. Cuts, contusions, falls, and other accidents are a common occurrence. Other hazards are not so easily seen, but can be even more dangerous and debilitating. One of these dangers is exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos and Grinding Machine Operation
One job done by some grinding machine operatives is to grind down and smooth out brake liners and brake pads. Older brake pads and liners were made with high concentrations of asbestos. One study done by the Environmental Protection Agency found that the standard process used to regrind old brake linings produces seven million airborne asbestos fibers in the one cubic meter around the grinding machine operator. When grinding new brake pads or liners the amount of asbestos released is reduced to “only” 5 million fibers. In haling these fibers can result in mesothelioma and other chronic respiratory diseases.
The dangers of asbestos exposure for grinding machine operatives are not limited to grinding brake pads and linings. Many metals were once coated with asbestos as a measure to insulate the metal from fire and heat. Grinding any of these metals also releases asbestos into the air. Some grinding jobs require the grinder to handle and move the metal through the grinder exposing him or her to the asbestos coating. Some grinding machine operatives have tried to remove the asbestos from metals they have to grind, but even the process of asbestos removal releases the fibers into the surrounding area. In addition, other materials that can be ground, such as blocks, bricks, concrete, and tile can have asbestos fibers running through the material. There is no way to remove this asbestos or to avoid it during a grinding job.