Creating electricity is a dangerous process. Fuel is burned to create heat, converting water in a boiler into high pressure steam, which then expands through nozzles in a steam turbine, causing it to rotate. The shaft on the turbine spins an electromagnet on an electric generator at high speeds, creating electricity. This entire process creates a lot of heat, making it important to use proper insulation to protect the building and the workers inside. Without this insulation, the building can be damaged and the workers severely injured.
To protect people from the high temperature being generated for electricity production, asbestos was used to insulate different surfaces. The boilers, pipes, and turbines were all coated with asbestos due to its excellent heat resistance and fireproofing abilities. It was also used inside fire doors, around electrical conduits, and inside machinery. This reduced the chance of a fire growing out of control and spreading. It also kept the heat inside the boiler and made the process more efficient.
Power stations used asbestos containing pipe covering and block insulation to insulate the tubes and pipes on the boilers. Boilers consist of thousands of tubes and pipes through which run hot water and steam. Asbestos workers would have to cut the pipe covering and block with saws prior to fitting the insulation onto the tubes, pipes and the walls of the boilers. The floors in the power stations were made of grates and the dust caused by the sawing and cutting came down through the grates onto everyone working on the boilers. At times it looked like it was snowing. Asbestos in a wet form called mud was also used to insulate pipes, boilers, turbines, and ancillary equipment. Asbestos containing mud was used in addition to the pipe covering and block insulation and was also used on the elbows, or turns in the pipes and tubes. During construction, asbestos workers mixed dry asbestos with water in bins to form a paste. This process would create a lot of dust and cover the workers, who breathed it in while not wearing protective masks. Asbestos would also be broken up and sent into the air when steam would leak out of the covered pipes. Workers would then have to fix the leak and cover it back up with asbestos containing insulation, exposing themselves to the asbestos dust again.
Even though working with heat is dangerous, using asbestos as insulation to protect workers is far more dangerous. Many of these workers contracted mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis later in life due to breathing in the carcinogenic asbestos fibers.
Did you work at a power station and have lung cancer or mesothelioma? If so, you may be entitled to compensation. Fill out our contact form or call us at 412-471-3980 to speak to one of our attorneys and learn your options.
Taylor-Lynch, Zoe, “Asbestos in the La Trobe Valley” Australian Asbestos Network [Link]
The Discovery of Electricity, “How Power Stations Work” CitiPower Powercor Australia [Link]