Oil refinery workers are very important to the United States economy, because it heavily relies on oil production. Oil refinery workers, which include engineers, journeymen (construction workers), and managers, are extremely skilled and take many precautions to protect themselves. Oil refinery workers, however, face high workplace asbestos exposure that may cause them to develop severe and fatal diseases. In fact, workplace asbestos exposure may be the leading cause of death among oil refinery workers.

Asbestos Use at an Oil Refinery    

Oil refinery workers are faced with an extremely dangerous job. Specifically, the oil refining process requires oil to be heated to temperatures exceeding 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Flammable oil, combined with intense heat, creates a high fire risk.

To protect themselves from being burned in a fire, oil refinery workers wore protective clothing containing asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is fire and heat resistant. To further minimize the fire risk, asbestos was used in many different types of oil refinery equipment. Examples of oil refinery equipment that may have contained asbestos include:

  • steam pipes
  • process pipelines
  • tanks
  • reactors
  • boilers
  • heat exchangers
  • pumps

Dangers of Workplace Asbestos Exposure at an Oil Refinery 

Unfortunately, oil refinery workers who wore protective clothing containing asbestos were unaware that asbestos can be very dangerous when its fibers are inhaled. When asbestos containing materials are broken, worn, or damaged, asbestos fibers become airborne. When inhaled, asbestos fibers remain lodged in the body and can cause life-threatening diseases, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Because many different types of oil refinery equipment contained asbestos, oil refinery workers were probably exposed to high levels of asbestos over long periods of time.

A study in England tracked over 45,000 oil refinery and petroleum distribution workers. In that study, researchers followed oil refinery and petroleum distribution workers who were employed for a minimum of twelve months between 1946 and 1971. Although the study found no abnormal amounts of cancer in the petroleum distribution workers, there were significantly elevated cancer rates among the oil refinery workers.

Injured While Working at an Oil Refinery?

If you or a loved one has been injured by asbestos exposure that occurred while working at an oil refinery, please contact us today for a full assessment of your legal rights and options.

Published November 17, 2011 by