Kaiser Shipyards included seven large shipyards along the West Coast in California, Oregon, and Washington. They played an important role during World War II, building ships for the military. Thousands of shipyard workers experienced asbestos exposure through the materials they handled, and some developed mesothelioma and other illnesses as a result.
Kaiser Shipyards History
Kaiser shipyards included seven different facilities. Four of these were the Richmond Shipyards in Richmond, California. The Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation and Swan Island Shipyard were located in Portland, Oregon, and the Vancouver Shipyard was in Vancouver, Washington.
Building Ships for World War II
Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser created Kaiser Shipyards in 1941 after the U.S. Maritime Commission announced shipbuilding needs for World War II. Kaiser was already well-known at the time for developing innovative ways to build vessels. He had experience building ships for Great Britain as well as the Maritime Commission.
Kaiser built around 27% of the Maritime Commission’s construction goals for wartime vessels. The shipyards created almost 1,500 ships and ranked 20th in businesses associated with wartime production.
Famous Ships Built by Kaiser
Kaiser Shipyards built several famous vessels, such as the Liberty ships and Victory ships. Both types of ships were known for carrying massive amounts of supplies, ammunition, and munitions during World War II. Some of the well-known ships of these types include the SS Red Oak Victory, SS Jeremiah O’Brien, and SS Lane Victory.
Diversity at Kaiser Shipyards
Kaiser recognized the need for more workers with the onset of World War II. With many men going off to war and a high demand for ships, he led the way in hiring women and minorities to work in the Kaiser shipyards.
Kaiser had to fight the unions just to allow black workers to be employed and to advance to skilled positions at the shipyards.
Kaiser Shipyard Set Records
The shipyard also set records during its peak. For instance, Kaiser Shipyards holds the record for building the SS Robert E. Peary in less than five days. It also holds the record for building the SS Joseph N. Teal Victory ship in less than ten days.
Kaiser Shipyards closed its doors permanently after World War II; however, the Richland, California shipyard became home to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in 2000.
According to the National Register of Historic Places, the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park is, in part, dedicated to female shipyard workers, who are often overlooked, although they made up a significant percentage of the workforce.
How Did Kaiser Shipyards Use Asbestos?
Kaiser Shipyards set records for quickly building vessels, but workers were required to work long hours. They didn’t always wear safety gear and were constantly exposed to harmful asbestos fibers.
How Were Kaiser Shipyard Workers Harmed by Asbestos?
Most ship workers had no idea that asbestos fibers could harm them and possibly kill them. Kaiser Shipyards allegedly did not provide any sort of safety training or safety gear, such as face respirators, that would have helped workers from ingesting asbestos fibers.
All types of workers at shipyards were exposed to asbestos. According to a report published in The Plain Dealer by asbestos trial lawyers, “building of these ships injured so many workers with asbestos that both the health care and legal system in the U.S. are threatened with collapse.”
Numerous types of workers at shipyards risked exposure to asbestos, with the most common including:
- General laborers
- Insulation installers
Kaiser Asbestos Lawsuits and Trust Fund
Most victims of asbestos-related illnesses filed lawsuits against the manufacturers that supplied asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) to various shipyards. The manufacturers mostly knew about asbestos dangers but continued to ignore the warnings because they were running a profitable industry.
Kaiser, however, was one of the exceptions. Kaiser was sued so many times that it eventually set up the Kaiser Asbestos Personal Injury Trust in 2006.
According to its official site, Kaiser Asbestos Personal Injury Trust was created to “process, liquidate, and pay all valid asbestos personal injury claims for which Kaiser has legal responsibility.”
Asbestos was not only used at the shipyards but also at other companies Kaiser owned in the aerospace, automotive, and construction fields.
How To Seek Compensation if You Were Exposed to Asbestos at Kaiser Shipyards
Workers affected by asbestos at Kaiser Shipyards and other workplaces can take legal action and file claims to seek compensation.
Act quickly to ensure you don’t miss the opportunity to seek justice due to the statute of limitations. An asbestos law firm will review your case for free.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer for Mesothelioma.net since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.