Westinghouse Electric Company was founded in 1886 when George Westinghouse built the first generating plant to produce alternating electrical current. Today, the company is a global player in the nuclear energy industry.
Owned by the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, Westinghouse is a major manufacturer and supplier of nuclear control technologies and commercial fuel products. In addition, the company offers plant design and start-up assistance for new facilities, as well as maintenance, training, quality management and engineering services.
The company grew quickly in its early years, employing 50,000 workers by 1900. Westinghouse handled several major electrical projects such as building the world’s fastest elevators for New York’s Rockefeller Center in 1933. Westinghouse was later responsible for World War II-era inventions and manufactured turbines for ships. Among other unique endeavors, the company created the first U.S. designed jet engine and the first airborne radar. Westinghouse video cameras, manned by astronauts, were even used to capture the first moon landing.
Westinghouse has acquired and relinquished many subsidiaries and corporations throughout its history, notably purchasing CBS Broadcasting Inc. in 1995. A year later, it sold its defense electronics businesses and bought Infinity Broadcasting. Changing its name to CBS Corp., the company sold its remaining industrial and commercial power businesses in the late 1990s. Later, British energy giant British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) acquired Westinghouse Electric. After growing the company through acquisitions, BNFL sold Westinghouse Electric to Toshiba in 2006.
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Despite exposing thousands of workers to asbestos, Westinghouse had fewer than 3,000 asbestos claims filed against them by 1988. Given the myriad acquisitions over the years, Westinghouse Electric has been difficult to bring to the courtroom. Still solvent, the current company and its predecessors have vigorously defended asbestos claims in litigation rather than handling them through a settlement trust and bankruptcy protection. This could actually benefit asbestos-exposure victims since individual asbestos claims more frequently result in higher compensation outcomes.
Many successful asbestos claims against Westinghouse have come in the form of workers’ compensation. Westinghouse workers – especially those in light bulb manufacturing and power plant construction and maintenance – were frequently exposed to airborne asbestos fibers during the manufacture of goods and the removal of insulation and wiring.
Former employees of Westinghouse who think they may have been exposed to asbestos during their employment should be aware of the symptoms associated with mesothelioma.
Asbestos products manufactured by Westinghouse exposed workers to asbestos in a number of industries, including those in the electrical, construction and shipbuilding. Employees located at Westinghouse facilities were likely exposed to asbestos even without directly working with the material because once asbestos fibers became airborne, they easily travel to other parts of a plant. If inhaled, workers faced the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis later in life.
Asbestos products manufactured by Westinghouse included light bulbs, welding rods and turbines. The company often used asbestos insulation around such products and working with these items often presented a risk for asbestos exposure.
Westinghouse turbines are one of the most recognized sources for asbestos exposure among former shipyard workers and Navy crew members. These asbestos-laden turbines were found in engine rooms in many ships built during World War II and after.
Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of professional writing experience. He joined Asbestos.com in 2016, and he spends much of his time reading, analyzing and reporting on mesothelioma research articles to ensure people in the mesothelioma community know the latest medical advancements. Prior to joining Asbestos.com, Matt was a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits some of the pages on the website.
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