Case study – brake mechanics exposure
Asbestos was used in brake and clutch linings for cars, trucks and locomotives manufactured and sold in Australia until 2003. Mechanics who handled, cut, riveted, ground, chamfered and bevelled brake linings were exposed to asbestos and later developed asbestos diseases.
In the early days brake linings came in strip form and had to be cut and riveted. Later brake linings were pre-formed. Even so, nearly every brake lining needed to be ground to ensure a proper fit.
As well as mechanics, others who worked in workshops nearby were exposed to asbestos dust from the grinding of brake linings and have also developed asbestos diseases.
Mr. M was born in the United Kingdom. He emigrated to Australia in 1965. Shortly thereafter he found work carrying out repairs on semi trailers, including brake relines. This process involved removing the worn brake lining segments, cleaning the brake shoes and reassembling and adjusting the brakes. Most of the brake linings needed to be ground while being fitted. This was done by Mr. M using a portable grinder under the trailer while kneeling over the sub axle. Mr. M ground the lining a small bit, checked to see if it fit, and then, if required, ground some more. It usually took about four or five goes to get it right. As he ground the brake linings a lot of dust from the lining went into the air around him. The dust went into his face and onto his clothes and body. Some of the dust settled on the floor. The dust was fine, like a mist.
The dust stayed on the floor until the work on the trailer was finished and he swept it up. People walked through and trod on the dust throughout the day. Mr. M never wore a mask while doing this work. Mr. M did this work for many years. He later contracted severe asbestosis, requiring 24-hour oxygen.
Mr. M instructed Turner Freeman who commenced proceedings on his behalf in the District Court of South Australia against the manufacturer of the brake linings Mr. M used. Mr. M’s claim was settled for a confidential sum on the eve of his trial.
Mr. S’s first job after leaving school in the 1970′s was working as a store man in a brake service shop in Mt Gambier. The shop made asbestos brake shoes. Asbestos lining was bonded on to a brake shoe and then ground on an open grinder to bevel the edges.
As well as making brake shoes, mechanics in the shop changed brake linings on cars. Customers brought in old shoes on backing plates. Mechanics cleaned off the old shoes using an air hose and a new shoe was bonded to the steel plate. Most shoes were then ground to fit.
Mr. S worked in the shop handling asbestos linings and delivering shoes throughout the workshop. He was often nearby when the linings were being ground on an open grinder. Mr. S did this job for less than a year. Years later, at age 43, he was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.
Turner freeman acted for Mr. S in a common law claim against the manufacturer of the brake linings used at the shop. His claim was settled out of court for a confidential sum.