Employers are required to create safe working environments for their employees, and must also provide necessary safety equipment and warn workers of possible dangers. This includes alerting workers to the presence of asbestos in the workplace. All too frequently, people in New Jersey — especially teachers — are unknowingly exposed to asbestos just by showing up to work. Workers’ compensation could help teachers who have developed mesothelioma because of asbestos in their classrooms.
While, in 2019, it is only used in limited capacities, prior to the 1980s, asbestos was very common and could be found in lots of places. Since it is a very durable substance that is also fireproof, builders frequently added it to the construction of schools in an effort to protect students. Asbestos was wrapped around heating pipes for insulation and sprayed onto the ceilings of gymnasiums and large auditoriums. Asbestos was even added to walls and used in textured paint. However, the durability of asbestos is now putting teachers and students at risk.
School districts should make necessary repairs and perform regular maintenance at all schools, especially those that are in older buildings. Older schools are more likely to have damage in items like ceiling tiles and floors, both of which can release asbestos fibers into the air when disrupted. Inhaling or ingesting those fibers can cause mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer.
Teachers who work at elementary and middle schools are much more likely to be exposed to asbestos than the average person in New Jersey. This is because many school districts do not fix repairs in a timely manner or may even ignore the problem altogether. It may be very upsetting to realize that an employer knew about an asbestos problem but did not do anything about it.
Students rely on teachers for more than just education. Teachers give young people safe, supportive places where personal growth and development is possible. New Jersey teachers deserve much better than classrooms filled with toxic substances, but for some, it may be too late. After developing mesothelioma because of on-the-job exposure, some victims may find it helpful to file for workers’ compensation benefits, as this can cover medical bills and lost wages.