Engineers are employed in a number of fields and work in both the private and public sectors. The nature of their work is the application of scientific and mathematical principles. It is how they find solutions to technical problems. This can be done in several ways.
Some engineers design new products that not only meet a consumer need but also are safe and cost-effective. Others oversee testing and production in factories where goods are produced. Their job encompasses tasks as analyzing factors that cause a component not to function properly and as testing products for quality assurance.
Engineers today rely heavily on computers to create and analyze designs; to test machinery and system operation; to develop specifications for repair parts; and to track product quality.
There are more than 25 engineering specialties identified by professional societies, such as:
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Engineers within the various types of classifications were exposed to different asbestos products, such as:
Regardless of the type of engineer, their exposure to asbestos was usually not the result of direct handling, but rather as the result of supervising the workers who installed the asbestos products called for in their designs.
Even though the work can be computer-driven, it is also very much hands-on, and it always has been. That has led to engineers being exposed to many of the same dangers as production-line employees, including those who were endangered by asbestos.
Historically, various types of engineers were exposed to asbestos because of their work with operations or equipment that operated at extremely high temperatures. Asbestos insulation was used to maintain temperature control.
A study conducted by researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) evaluated the relationship between high occupational asbestos exposure and the occurrence of gastrointestinal cancer. They analyzed death certificate data from 4,943,566 individuals from 28 states from 1979 through 1990. Statistical data for the incidence of mesothelioma was used to identify occupations having a high level of exposure. Researchers used these same statistics to calculate the number of gastrointestinal cancer deaths after eliminating deaths from other causes like mesothelioma and lung cancer.
The analysis revealed that while increased risk for gastrointestinal cancer was not an issue for mechanical and electrical engineers, elevated risk for colorectal cancer was.
David Bean was employed as an engineer with Bristol Water from the 1950s until he retired in 1992. He repaired and maintained pumping stations that were covered with asbestos cement insulation. This insulation had to be removed for repairs, but Bean was not given protective gear of any kind to protect him from inhaling asbestos fibers.
Bean was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2010 and died in 2011. His wife Jean filed the asbestos-related lawsuit, and she received a jury award of more than $450,000.
ABB Ltd manufactured asbestos power transformers.
Combustion Engineering manufactured boilers and boiler products that contained asbestos.
Both companies were named defendants in lawsuits.
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