Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
Steady Work Included Daily Exposure to Asbestos
The largest Naval shore facility in the Pacific Northwest and one of Washington State’s principal employers, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF) was established in 1891 as a ship repair facility in a protected, deep-water harbor called Sinclair Inlet. The first of its six eventual dry docks was constructed in 1892 and hosted its first battleship in need of repair, the USS Oregon, that same year.
During World War I, Puget Sound Naval Station constructed 43 large, sea-going vessels and 1,700 small watercraft on its 190 acres. During World War II, the shipyard repaired Navy vessels damaged in battle. In the years before the Korean War, PSNS turned its attention to modernization of the U.S. Naval fleet, including conversion of conventional flight decks on aircraft carriers to angled decks. In the 1950s and 1960s, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard returned to shipbuilding, specializing in the construction of a new class of guided missile frigates. In the 1990s, PSNS & IMF became the go-to destination of nuclear-powered ships destined for decommissioning. There, an environmentally safe method for the deactivation and recycling of nuclear reactor-powered vessels was pioneered and perfected.
Throughout these decades of prolific activity, however, a deadly enemy lurked in every corner of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and other military facilities like it all over the country: asbestos. On land and at sea, asbestos-containing products were incorporated into virtually every aspect of shipbuilding, operation, maintenance and repair, from fireproofing of the hulls and munitions compartments to the insulation of boiler rooms, from asbestos-laden electric boards in radio control shacks to asbestos-insulation covered steam pipes snaking through sleeping billets and other close quarters, from welding blankets used to protect shipbuilders from heat and sparks to a ship’s kitchen ovens in which the daily bread was baked. Microscopic dust particles sloughed off from these asbestos components, potentially entered the lungs of anyone in the vicinity, making Navy veterans and the craftsmen who worked on ships while at sea and in dry dock the most at-risk group of all the military service sectors for developing the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
Asbestos Manufacturers Reluctant to Stop Use
In the 1970s the Navy began to limit the amount of asbestos to which service personnel and shipyard workers were exposed, but the utilization of asbestos materials throughout every aspect of Naval operations was so pervasive that its application continued for the rest of the decade and beyond, all the way into the 1990s in some cases. And even when the Navy issued directives to its qualified manufacturers to substitute non-asbestos steam pipe covering, gaskets, rope packing and other insulating materials in the products they supplied, those manufacturers resisted, not wanting to incur the higher costs of a more expensive substitute.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we want to help. Call us at 855-280-7664 or complete our contact form.
If you worked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you don’t have to endure this deadly cancer without possible compensation for your suffering. You will not be asked to sue the government or the military. The experienced mesothelioma lawyers at Baron & Budd pursue compensation from the manufacturers who knew of the danger of asbestos and continued to incorporate the deadly carcinogen into their products anyway. Please contact the lawyers at Baron & Budd to receive a completely free and confidential evaluation.
Boilermakers and the related trades who worked at facilities like Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility should be proud of their legacy as caretakers of our Navy’s fleet. But never should such meritorious work have resulted in exposure to deadly asbestos products made by unscrupulous manufacturers.