The Alcoa plant in Massena, New York is recognized as the longest running aluminum production factory in the world. For over 100 years, Alcoa has expanded its operations in Massena, marketing its products to the aviation, automotive and construction industries. As the dominant player in the aluminum industry, the employees of Alcoa’s Massena plant manufactured products that were shipped across the world. With operation beginning in 1902, Alcoa merged with Reynolds Metal in 2000, solidifying itself as one of the world’s largest aluminum manufacturers.

The backbone of Alcoa’s operations at the Massena plant was the smelting operations performed by skilled labor. Laborers operated hundreds of high-heat furnaces and ovens around the clock, allowing Alcoa to meet the high demand for its products. Using heating equipment that could reach temperatures of 2300 degrees Fahrenheit, Alcoa employees worked with, melted and casted various metals into finished products. Employees in the production process used other equipment as well, like crucibles, ladles, mixers, and melting pots. All of this equipment operated at dangerously high temperatures, requiring heavy insulation to protect employees from serious injuries.

Today, it is widely understood that the operators and maintainers of these furnaces and ovens were regularly exposed to vast amounts of asbestos. For decades, plants like Alcoa insulated various external parts of the furnaces with asbestos to prevent burns and trap the heat. Other asbestos components, like firebrick, refractory material and asbestos stone was installed and regularly removed from the ovens. Additional equipment, like the ladles and crucibles involved in the smelting process, also had asbestos components to protect from burns. Many times, to deal with the dangerous heat produced by this equipment, employees wore fibrous asbestos gloves.

Employees of Alcoa’s Massena plant who operated and maintained the furnaces and ovens regularly worked with asbestos material. The heat produced by this equipment rapidly deteriorated the asbestos bricks and refractory materials installed within. When necessary, the furnace would be taken out of operation, and the asbestos materials would be cleaned out. Often times, this required the worker to scrape the worn, clay-like materials out of the oven, which produced vast amounts of asbestos. Then, when the furnace was cleaned, new brick and refractory material was installed.

Supporting the aluminum manufacturing process were various pieces of equipment operated by Alcoa’s maintenance gangs. Equipment like boilers, pumps and valves helped to power the plants, and move water, liquids and chemicals to various locations. Much of this equipment was designed in a way that proper performance could only be achieved with the use of asbestos materials. Maintenance employees regularly changed asbestos-containing gaskets and packing on this equipment. Like the smelters, these employees were never warned of the dangers of exposure to airborne dust.

Attorneys at LK have represented skilled tradespeople for decades. If you or a loved one worked at the Alcoa plant in Massena, New York and have developed an asbestos-related disease, call today for a free consultation. An LK attorney will assist you in identifying the unique exposures you may have suffered at this worksite.


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