Situated on the West Coast, Kaiser Shipyards consisted a total of seven yards that were all used to build and repair vessels. Although the shipyards played an important role during World War II, large asbestos presence resulted in the numerous workers developing life-threatening injuries.
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Kaiser Shipyards History
Kaiser Shipyards was created in the 1930s when founder Henry Kaiser began building cargo ships for the Maritime Commission. It was during 1940, however, that Kaiser Shipyard, known at first as Richmond Shipyard was established, after the beginning of the war in Britain called for additional vessels.
During World War II, four of the California sites, known as Kaiser Richmond, were created, followed by two Portland, Oregon sites and one Vancouver, Washington site. Throughout the war, the shipyards built more than 740 ships, with a total of 27 shipways.
In 1945, the four California shipyards were closed down, followed by the closure of one of the Portland sites and the Vancouver site. The only remaining shipyard, the Swan Island Portland shipyard, is now managed and operated by Cascade General.
Kaiser Shipyards and Asbestos
As with most shipyards during World War II, Kaiser shipyards relied on asbestos for its resistance to heat and fire, ease of use, and affordability. Throughout most of the war, Kaiser Shipyards used asbestos in a variety of equipment, rooms, machinery, and more. Often times, employees and contractors worked in poorly-ventilated shops, increasing their risk of developing an asbestos-related illness.
Kaiser shipyards also never required its workers to wear protective gear while working around asbestos. Although documents confirm that the United States Navy knew full well of the asbestos of dangers, they still enforce the use of respirators or any other form of safety protections against asbestos fibers.
In addition, Kaiser Shipyards set records in how fast they built vessels. The Washington shipyard alone built over 145 ships from 1942 until 1946. With the fast production times, most workers didn’t have the chance to slow down and gauge their health.
Numerous workers performing different job function at Kaiser Shipyards were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, including:
- Boilermakers and mechanics
- Construction crew
- Electricians, and more
As more and more workers began to develop asbestos-related illnesses numerous years after working at Kaiser Shipyards, lawsuits soon followed. Most lawsuits were against manufacturers that supplied asbestos-containing products to the shipyard. Per the U.S. Navy, more than 200 types of asbestos-containing products from many different companies were used at shipyards throughout the nation.
In 2006, the Kaiser Asbestos Personal Injury Trust was created after thousands of lawsuits against Kaiser started mounting up. This not only includes the shipyards, but “any valid asbestos personal injury claims for which Kaiser has legal responsibility.”
Kaiser’s asbestos-containing products, which included materials also sent to the construction, aerospace, and automotive industry, include:
- Unitab bricks
- Fire bricks
- Finishing mud cement, and
Additional Resources and Help for Asbestos Victims
If you’ve been injured by mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you’ll qualify for considerable compensation. Don’t forget to fill out our form to get our free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information on the leading asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys in your area.