Established in 1898 as McCarthy Brothers & Ford, Buffalo Electric was a major electrical contractor in Upstate New York for nearly a century. In addition to electrical contracting, Buffalo Electric also performed electrical motor repair and control panel fabrication at its workshop on West Mohawk Street in Buffalo, New York. Electricians employed by Buffalo Electric were members of Local 41 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. In 1991, the company went out of business. During its ninety-three year history, Buffalo Electric performed construction and repairs at many industrial and commercial locations in Western New York, including Bethlehem Steel, General Motors plants, Niagara Mohawk power stations and substations, Ashland Oil, Donner Hanna Coke, Republic Steel, M & T Plaza, Marine Midland Center and American Brass.
Up until the late 1970s, electricians employed by Buffalo Electric were exposed to asbestos-containing materials during installation and maintenance and repairs on electrical equipment. Many types of electrical equipment contained asbestos, such as motor starters, contactors, arc chutes and circuit breakers. Buffalo Electric employees were also exposed to asbestos-containing building materials applied by other tradesmen. Fireproof insulation, joint compound, ceiling tiles, pipe covering, insulating cement and block insulation contained asbestos. Additionally, asbestos-containing materials were utilized during the manufacturing processes at industrial job sites where Buffalo Electric’s electricians often worked. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases.
During regular operation, electrical components inside motor starters, circuit breakers and contactors opened and closed forcefully. Over time, wear and tear caused the asbestos-containing plastic that made up the body of these components to produce dust that settled in the bottom of the control cabinet or panel box. Arc chutes, which were designed to absorb stray arcs of electricity when electrical contacts are opened and closed, shed small amounts of asbestos-containing plastic each time the contacts were operated. When electricians opened the cabinet or box in order to perform repairs or maintenance, asbestos-containing dust became airborne, which workers inhaled.
At commercial and industrial job sites, Buffalo Electric employees worked side-by-side with pipefitters, carpenters, insulators and other tradesmen. During a building’s initial construction, structural steel was typically covered with asbestos fireproof insulation. Electricians often disturbed the fireproof material in order to hang conduit, lighting or other electrical equipment. Steam, water or chemical pipes covered with asbestos-containing insulation were frequently located in the same areas that electrical conduit was installed. At some industrial job sites, such as Durez Plastics, Bethlehem Steel and Hooker Chemical, electricians were exposed to asbestos-containing materials used in the manufacturing process, including raw asbestos, refractory materials and plastic molding compounds. During commercial construction projects, electricians were often present when asbestos-containing joint compound was applied and sanded. Asbestos-containing ceiling tiles were also installed during the same time that electricians installed light fixtures. Installing or disturbing asbestos-containing materials caused asbestos fibers to become airborne, which Buffalo Electric employees inhaled. Many workers were completely unaware of the dangers of exposure to asbestos dust, and they performed their work without masks or protective gear.
The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products used by employees of Buffalo Electric. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at Buffalo Electric and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, please contact us regarding your legal rights.