Tin is a material that is used widely throughout the construction industry because of its ability to withstand the elements and remain rust-free. Because of these properties, it is a valuable metal in the creation of insulated containers and roofing products, as well as pipes. However, tin on its own is often too soft to use alone, so a craftsperson must often combine it with other metals to create useful alloys. A person who is in the trade of working with tin to convert it to materials that can be used daily is referred to as a tinsmith.
Many construction jobs include some level of risk. Companies have taken measures to minimize the risks and create as safe of a working environment as possible. A tinsmith, like many other metal workers, has a riskier job than most. Even with safety precautions in place, they find themselves facing a riskier element because they are more apt to be exposed to asbestos.
Tinsmiths and Asbestos
Tinsmiths work directly with asbestos because they apply it as pipe insulation. The asbestos fibers must be separated, cut and applied, during this process; particles of asbestos are circulated into the air and thereby inhaled by the tinsmiths. Another factor causing asbestos exposure to a tinsmith is that the very protective gear they are required to wear while working with flames has a component of asbestos woven into its cloth. Asbestos is a good insulator and is the only naturally occurring mineral that has fibers which can be easily integrated into cloth. This makes it ideal for use in the tinsmiths’ protective gear, but just a slight tear to the gear can cause release of asbestos into the air, thus a double jeopardy of asbestos exposure for tinsmiths.
While asbestos is no longer used for insulation, either in pipes or protective clothing, it can still be found in older buildings and materials that a tinsmith may come into contact with on a regular basis. If these asbestos-containing materials are torn, crumbled, or otherwise damaged, they can release dangerous asbestos fibers into the air that can be breathed in. They may even settle on clothing, exposing everyone who comes into contact with the tinsmith. Valuable decontamination protocols (like on-site showers) must be enforced to lessen the exposure of asbestos to tinsmiths and their families.