Were an employee to behave in a fashion that countermines an employer’s mandated safety requirements, then the onus is on the employee. When an employer mandates the use of a helmet or similar protective gear while on the job site, any employee refusing to don such gear does so at his or her own risk. But this is rare, and any employee given to such insubordination in the face of an identified health hazard would likely face immediate dismissal.
However, in the case of asbestos drilling - this appears not to be the case. In the majority of incidents, employees serving as a mud engineer had no idea that the material with which they were working could be hazardous, to the point of threatening their lives.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and its use has been substantially curbed over the years. Many countries around the world have banned its use and production entirely. Others, such as the US, restrict its use to certain applications - mostly industrial. And while the majority of employers are cognizant of the health hazards of asbestos and take steps to protect their workers, such was not the case decades ago when the hazards of asbestos were less well-known.
Or so it appears. In reality, asbestos has been suspected for its hazardous properties since the early 1900s. And yet most manufacturers and users of asbestos - including asbestos drilling mud - appear to have turned a blind eye to the hazards until the 1970s. Suddenly, asbestos began disappearing from wallboard and ceiling tile. It was no longer used for insulation.
But for those toiling with asbestos before precautions came into vogue, it’s too late. And mud engineers encountering a drilling mud problem that could, unbeknownst to them, shorten their lives, can and have gone for decades without symptoms.
That’s because diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma can take years to incubate, emerging in many cases some 30 years after initial exposure. Were symptoms to develop quickly, understanding the probable association would result in a much faster response and avoidance of free-floating asbestos fibers - the most common source for asbestos contamination.
Hence the need for a drilling mud lawsuit, as the mud engineer facing a death sentence from asbestosis or mesothelioma puts the responsibility on the employer for failure to warn and failure to take precautions.
Any defendant pleading ignorance of the health hazards of asbestos need only research the subject to discover how far back concern over asbestos historically goes.
Should an employer have known the hazards of asbestos? Yes. The information is out there for anyone who wished to take the time or the interest to research just what they were forcing their employees to work with. But no one appeared to be getting violently ill from oil drilling mud. So where’s the concern?
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Host a party; you make sure your guests get home safely by providing cab chits or a designated driver.
Similarly, require your employees to work with a hazardous material, and it’s your responsibility to ensure they are aware of the hazards and provide adequate protective clothing and breathing apparatus.
Or, in the case of many drilling mud companies, maybe not…
You go to your job to earn a living. You don’t go to your job to die. Many an oil well drilling mud plaintiff, sitting in court gasping for air with an oxygen tank as a constant companion, would agree. A plaintiff who deserves well drilling mud compensation.
If he lives long enough to see it…