Navy Efforts To Protect Workers From Asbestos Exposure

HRD-80-2: Published: Oct 18, 1979. Publicly Released: Oct 22, 1979.

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GAO reviewed the Navy's efforts to protect workers from asbestos exposure at the Long Beach and Norfolk Naval Shipyards. Specifically reviewed were the use of asbestos in Navy ships, the cost of removing asbestos from Navy ships, and compensation programs for asbestos-related disabilities. The Navy's 1975 policy was to remove and replace with nonasbestos materials only insulation that was damaged or had to be removed to accomplish necessary repairs. This policy was modified in 1979 to include selectively replacing asbestos insulation in high-maintenance areas where repairs would be expected during a ship's next operating cycle.

The Navy has made considerable efforts to protect workers from asbestos. Although recently constructed Navy ships have little or no asbestos thermal insulation, other Navy ships contain large quantities of asbestos. The Navy does not plan a one-time asbestos removal and replacement program, primarily because in most cases the $2 billion cost can not be justified by necessity. However, better supervision, training, and workplace monitoring, as well as increased use of engineering controls, can help further reduce exposure. As long as ships contain asbestos insulation, some exposure is probably inevitable. Several disability compensation programs are available for present and former naval employees who believe an asbestos-related health problem resulted from their Navy employment. The compensation program which applies will generally depend on the employment status of the individual affected.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that naval shipyard asbestos control and personnel protection programs are effectively monitored and enforced. The Secretary should also provide sufficient resources to effectively implement these programs.

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