Contractors Exposed to Asbestos at Power Plant

Daily Press report explains that at least a dozen contractors were exposed to asbestos while working at the Surry nuclear power plant this past April. The news source reports that according to one of those contractors, “safety officials said the jobs did not involve asbestos and any pipes containing asbestos would be clearly labeled.” However, reports gathered from the State Department of Labor and Industry detail how “Flakes of the carcinogen went airborne after contractors cut a pipe,” the Daily Press reports. The article explains how contractors had to follow this unlabeled pipe down two floors to find a label which read: “Danger Asbestos.” Once disturbed, asbestos fiber exposure leads to a number of lethal respiratory illnesses and cancers, including mesothelioma. This cancer is commonly seen in individuals who worked in careers that involved heavy asbestos exposure, like industrial and commercial trades. These fields saw heavy use of this mineral, as it gave materials strength and resistance to heat, fire, and chemical corrosion. As a result, it was frequently found lining pipes as a wrap, which was true at this plant. Pipes typically carry hot or corrosive liquids, and the asbestos coating offers a strong barrier which prevents any escape. Victims of asbestos exposure generally see the development of mesothelioma following a latency period of 20 to 50 years. Today contact with asbestos is heavily controlled, as state and federal regulations mandate specific safety protocol for both the removal and disposal of this material. However, the news source reports that because workers were not warned beforehand, asbestos traces were “later found on the clothes of a dozen workers and in three work trailers.” Unfortunately, the news source explains that the quantity of “asbestos the contractors were exposed to is unknown because the plant's owner, Dominion Virginia Power, did not have air sampling equipment on site when workers cut into the pipes.” The news source explains that state investigators found that “six of the eight companies involved were not at fault.” However, the article reports that Quality Specialties Inc., the company in charge of asbestos handling, “was fined $4,900 for not properly labeling the pipes.” They are allegedly fighting this charge. The Daily Press goes on to explain that a contractor alleges he was told by the plant owner that any asbestos materials had been abated. Asbestos abatement refers to the general practice of removing, encasing, or encapsulating sources of this fiber. This employee believes that warning labels on these pipes may have been covered over during past encapsulation of the asbestos, which accounts for the incident which occurred earlier this year. The news source explains the workers are now being checked by doctors and looking into their legal options regarding this incident. Reference:
  • Nealon, Cory. (October 22, 2011) “Asbestos: At least 12 contractors exposed at Surry reactor.” Retrieved on October 24, 2011 from the Daily Press.
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