(415) 332-4262

OSHA Asbestos Standards for Shipyard Workers

Shipyard Workers & Retired Maritime Workers

Shipyard workers, both current and retired, whether in the general populace or Veterans of the Navy, Coast Guard or Marines, are among one of the highest risk occupations for exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once added to thousands of industrial and building products. Maritime workers who performed any installation, repair or maintenance have a high risk of exposure since almost every ship constructed before the mid-1980s was done so with asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos comes in different forms:

  • Chrysotile (also called white asbestos)
  • Amosite (also called brown asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (also called blue asbestos)
  • Tremolite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Actinolite

The most common types are the first three on the list.

OSHA Regulations

All forms of asbestos are toxic and dangerous to one’s health. Exposure to asbestos causes serious and fatal illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created regulations to protect shipyard workers from occupational exposure to asbestos. (29 CFR 1915.1001)

OSHA further divided asbestos work into four classes based upon the level of danger of exposure. To read the full details of Class I through Class IV, please visit our article: OSHA Classification of Hazards of Asbestos Work. In general, Class I presents the highest risk and Class IV is the least.

For shipyard work, the class determines frequency of monitoring, protection requirements, and workplace practices. If asbestos containing products are determined to be on-site, then employers must:


  • Determine the presence, location and quantity of ACMs at the work site
  • Monitor for workers, either daily or periodically depending on the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL).
  • Create regulated areas, where all work with ACMS is to be performed, labels clearly marked, and access to contaminated areas limited to authorized persons with appropriate training and protective gear.
  • Control exposures to ensure lowest levels possible
  • Provide OSHA approved respirators and protective clothing
  • Establish a decontamination area where hygiene practices are enforced
  • Train employees who are likely to be exposed above a PEL
  • Post warning labels on all known ACM’s
  • Provide medical examinations on a periodic basis to all workers who perform work for more than 30 days per year in Class work known to cause exposure above a PEL.
  • Maintain records: monitoring, medical and training

Branches of the military, such as the Coast Guard, Navy and Marines, have management plans for identified in-place asbestos. They, like employers in general, must ensure that a “qualified person” conducts an asbestos assessment before, during and after any work known to involve ACMs is performed. This type of work usually includes but is not limited to removal of ACMs, such as wall board, floor tile, roofing and siding shingles, pipe insulation, and construction mastics.

Warning Labels

In addition, warning signs must be posted that include the following information in such a way that all workers can clearly understand the content, i.e. in foreign languages, using graphics and symbols, etc, such as the example below left from the Health and Safety Department in New Zealand and below right that is bilingual:

Asbestos Warning Labels and SignsAsbestos warning signs and labels

If the use of respirators and protective clothing in the regulated area is required, the warning signs should also include:


All labels need to be printed in large bold letters with contrasting background. Any clean up of materials known to contain asbestos or regulated areas must follow regulations, such as using only HEPA filtered vacumming equipment, glove bags, glove boxes, HEPA filtration system, Water Spray Process System, and etc. ACM waste disposal must be collected an disposed of in clearly marked, sealed, leak-tight bags or containers and taken to approved waste facilities.

Legal Rights for Shipyard Workers

Despite asbestos manufacturers and distributors knowing how dangerous asbestos was, this knowledge was kept hidden for many years. Therefore, thousands of shipyard workers and Veterans were not aware of their workplace hazards until much later, when regulations finally were put into place in the 1980s. Because mesothelioma and asbestos related diseases have a long latency period, it can take up to fifty years for symptoms to appear. Often diagnosis of asbestos illness is not made until the cancer or scarring has reached advanced stages and prognosis is poor.

If you are a retired shipyard worker or Veteran and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis, please call our offices at 415-332-4262. We have been exclusively fighting for the rights of victims of asbestos related diseases for over 30 years and are able to help quickly. Call, at no cost, to talk to a mesothelioma attorney and for a free case evaluation.