The term mechanical engineer can refer to a number of more specific jobs. In general, mechanical engineers are responsible for designing, manufacturing, analyzing, and testing products. These products can be for any purpose in any industry. However, a few industries use mechanical engineers more than others. Businesses that employ high numbers of mechanical engineers include the automotive field, the aerospace industry, and the chemical manufacturing industry. Most mechanical engineers, no matter the specific industry, must, at some time, deal with the dynamics of electrical circuitry and heat transfer. This means that they have a high exposure to insulations such as asbestos.
Mechanical Engineers and Asbestos
During the time period from the 1940s to the 1970s, asbestos use became very popular in the United States and was a component in over 3,000 different products. The popularity of asbestos stemmed from its insulation against fire, heat, and electricity. All of the 3,000 products containing asbestos were developed and manufactured with the help of mechanical engineers. In fact, mechanical engineers generally came into contact with asbestos products several times during the cycle of development and production.
The first phase in which mechanical engineers may have come into contact with asbestos was during the initial gathering and testing of raw materials. Once the materials were put together to form a prototype, the mechanical engineer would again be present, but even closer and more involved than before. As products were made en masse in the factory, mechanical engineers were always on-hand for the entire manufacturing process, from beginning to end. Finally, many of the same products that were manufactured ended up being used by mechanical engineers in their regular duties, forming a full circle for the entire life of the dangerous product.
Mechanical engineers, like everyone else, had little reason to believe there was anything to fear from asbestos. Like most workers, they had other more direct concerns for safety. It didn’t occur to them that the tiny fibers of asbestos were coming loose and being released into the air. Even though the asbestos dust was visible in great clouds at times during production, it was breathed in just as any other dust would be. Unfortunately, asbestos dust has the ability to cause numerous health risks, including the lethal disease, mesothelioma.