International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 41 represents union electricians in Erie County. In 1891, Local 41 was originally founded as part of the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Local 41 is based in Orchard Park, New York, and is a member of the Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council. Members of Local 41 perform electrical work throughout a variety of indoor and outdoor locations, including manholes, roofs, and buildings and in trenches. Local 41 electricians have participated in various projects throughout Erie County, including University at Buffalo, Main Place Mall, Erie County Medical Center, Bethlehem Steel and Marine Midland Center.
Up until the late 1970s, Local 41 electricians were exposed to asbestos during installation and maintenance of asbestos-containing materials on electrical equipment. Electricians have one of the highest incidence rates for developing mesothelioma. Before warnings were placed on asbestos-containing products in the late 1970s, electricians who worked in industrial, construction or residential industries were exposed to asbestos through the very products they installed and maintained. Exposure to asbestos-containing materials can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Many types of electrical equipment contained asbestos, such as motor starters, contactors, arc chutes and circuit breakers. During regular operation, electrical components inside motor starters, circuit breakers and contactors opened and closed forcefully. Over time, wear and tear caused these asbestos-containing plastic parts that made up the body of electrical components to produce dust, which 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.
Electricians were also exposed to asbestos through the application and removal of hundreds of building products. At commercial and industrial job sites, electricians worked side-by-side with fireproofers, pipefitters, carpenters, insulators and other tradesmen. During a building’s initial construction, structural steel was typically sprayed with asbestos fireproof insulation. Electricians often disturbed the fireproof material in order to hang conduit, lighting or other electrical equipment. Steam, water and/or chemical pipes were covered with asbestos-containing pipe insulation, and these lines were typically located in the same areas where electrical conduit was installed. Joint compound, ceiling tiles, pipe covering, insulating cement and block insulation also contained asbestos. During commercial construction projects, electricians were often present when these asbestos-containing materials were applied.
Local 41 Electricians routinely worked in the immediate presence of acoustical contractors, including Mader Plastering and Buffalo Acoustical, who sprayed asbestos-containing fireproofing and/or applied asbestos-containing joint compound. Asbestos-containing ceiling tiles were also installed during the same time that electricians installed light fixtures. Occasionally, electricians cut asbestos-containing ceiling tiles in order to install light fixtures, alarm systems or other electrical equipment. Installing or disturbing asbestos-containing materials caused asbestos fibers to become airborne, which Local 41 electricians inhaled.
At some industrial job sites, such as Republic Steel and Bethlehem Steel, electricians were exposed to asbestos-containing materials used during the manufacturing process, including raw asbestos, refractory materials and plastic molding compounds.
Inhaling dust and particles from exposure to asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk for developing mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one worked as a Local 41 electrician and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, please contact us to discuss a potential legal claim. Our services include lawsuits against manufacturers of asbestos-containing products and claims under the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law.