Based in Euclid, Ohio, Lincoln Electric serves the welding industry, manufacturing tools, safety equipment, and accessories. In the past, the company made many of its products with asbestos, a harmful natural mineral that can cause mesothelioma. Lincoln never had to file for bankruptcy or start an asbestos trust despite lawsuits over exposure and illness.
About Lincoln Electric
Lincoln Electric, a Fortune 1000 company based in Euclid, Ohio, sells products and services to the welding industry. The company makes and sells hundreds of products, including welders, arc welders, torches, wire and arc feeders, electrodes, fume control solutions, stick welders, welding guns, plasma cutters, accessories, and many more.
Industries that buy Lincoln’s gear include automotive, nuclear energy, offshore drilling, power generation, pipelines, liquid natural gas, wind energy, thermal energy, and shipbuilding, to name a few. Lincoln Electric has sales offices worldwide; although, more than half its sales are to North American customers.
Lincoln Electric was founded in 1895 by an electric motor designer named John Lincoln. He started a motor sales business with just $200. Lincoln’s brother also joined the company, which expanded to offer welding sets and battery chargers for automobiles.
Lincoln Electric was the first company to provide a portable welding machine with a variable voltage that one person could operate. This was an important innovation in welding and industrial manufacturing.
Early in its history, Lincoln Electric initiated unique management and employee policies. These included piecework pay and an Employee Advisory Board, which is still in operation today.
In 1915, employees at Lincoln Electric were offered group life insurance, an unusual benefit for the time period. In the 1950s, the company implemented a policy that prohibited anyone who had been with the company for at least two years from being laid off. Harvard Business School has extensively studied Lincoln Electric’s business model because of these innovative policies.
Initially, Lincoln Electric focused primarily on welding equipment, gear, and supplies. During World War II, Lincoln provided more welding equipment to the military than any other company.
During the war, Lincoln also contracted to make repairs on Navy ships. Since then, Lincoln Electric has become more successful, with few hiccups along the way. These include lawsuits over the use of asbestos.
Asbestos Use in Welding Products
All Lincoln Electric welding products have been asbestos-free since 1981; however, the company manufactured welding rods with as much as 15% asbestos for decades.
Welders use welding rods to join two metal components. Rods are surrounded by a material called flux that prevents oxidation of the metal. For many years this material contained asbestos because it added strength and protected welders from fire.
Asbestos Exposure from Lincoln Electric Welding Rods
Years of asbestos use in these welding rods potentially exposed thousands of workers to harmful asbestos fibers. Though asbestos protected workers from heat, tiny asbestos fibers could come loose to float in the air.
Once these fibers became airborne, anyone in the area could inhale them. Asbestos fibers are harmful because they can become lodged in body tissue, causing extensive damage over time. Some people exposed to asbestos will eventually develop lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis.
Workers who made these welding rods risked harmful asbestos exposure on the job, as did people working with them in other industries. Major industries that used Lincoln Electric products include:
- Shipping and shipyards
- The United States Navy
- Automotive manufacturing
- Automotive repair
Workers in many other industries that used these welding rods also put themselves and others around them at risk of asbestos exposure.
Lawsuits over Asbestos and Mesothelioma
For decades, Lincoln Electric’s welding rods contained asbestos. Because of this, many workers in a range of industries were affected. Some of those who got sick sued Lincoln Electric and other companies. These workers claimed the companies that manufactured products with asbestos did not warn them of the potential risks.
In 2003, two former Lincoln Electric employees filed a lawsuit. One of these employees developed mesothelioma, and another developed lung cancer. The jury decided Lincoln Electric was responsible and ordered it to pay the men over $6 million.
Cases like these cost the company a lot of money; however, Lincoln Electric had thousands of lawsuits dismissed. Hundreds were decided in favor of Lincoln Electric, while only a handful went in favor of the plaintiffs. Today the number of cases filed against Lincoln Electric has decreased, and the company has avoided bankruptcy.
Because Lincoln Electric did not file for bankruptcy protection, the company did not have to establish an asbestos trust. Many other companies created these trusts to ensure compensation for victims; instead, claimants against Lincoln must file a lawsuit and fight for that compensation.
If you believe Lincoln Electric is liable for your asbestos illness, rely on a lawyer experienced in asbestos and mesothelioma cases to help you through the process.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
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.