Heavy equipment mechanics can be found in every industry that requires heavy machinery. This means mechanics work for just about every industry there is. Heavy equipment mechanics work primarily in manufacturing, construction, agriculture, distribution, and transportation. They are responsible for maintaining and repairing not only vehicles and machinery used for transport, but any and all types of machinery used in their industry. They must service fuel systems, transmission systems, power trains, hydraulics, and brakes. Heavy equipment mechanics are also responsible for the electrical systems of the machinery.
Asbestos and Heavy Equipment
There are several major factors that link heavy equipment mechanics to asbestos exposure and asbestos-related diseases. The first is brake systems. Brakes once used liners or pads constructed of materials that include asbestos. Replacing or servicing brake pads can throw millions of asbestos fibers into the air, which are then breathed into the lungs. Even just cleaning braking systems with an air compressor as a part of routine maintenance can release an estimated 16 million fibers directly into the area occupied by the heavy equipment mechanic. Brake systems are not the only worry for heavy equipment mechanics. Gaskets and clutch liners were once also contained asbestos. While gaskets mainly stayed put affixed between two parts, clutches are friction devices where the asbestos could be ground out and ejected into the air by the gears or flywheel.
Many heavy equipment mechanics are also responsible for welding the machinery. Welding rods were another source of asbestos. Each time a rod had to be used for welding, asbestos could be released into the air because it is highly heat and fire resistant. The torch does not destroy the asbestos any more than it destroys the metal. In fact, the asbestos comes out of the welding process in much better shape than the metal. Another source of asbestos on heavy machinery is in the electrical equipment. Asbestos is not only an insulator of heat but of electricity, also. Wiring and other electrical components were once often stuffed with asbestos insulation.
Asbestos exposure for heavy equipment mechanics is not limited to the equipment itself. Many of the products used in the industry that are processed through the machinery contained asbestos. Coming into such close contact with the machinery exposes mechanics to stray fibers and asbestos dust. Although asbestos has largely been eliminated from new heavy equipment, older equipment can still be full of asbestos, and it doesn’t take much to stir it up.