Local 4 of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers is a labor union that represents insulators in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. Headquartered in Buffalo, New York, Local 4 was one of the original local unions that comprised the international union chartered by the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1910, along with locals from New York, Chicago, Saint Louis, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The union is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Until 2007, the insulators’ union was known as the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers.

Members of the Buffalo local have jurisdiction over insulating work occurring in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming, Genesee and Orleans Counties in New York; and Warren, McKean and Potter Counties in Pennsylvania. Insulating work occurs in commercial and industrial locations, as well as in construction sites. Local 4 insulators have worked at nearly every major construction site and industrial location in Western New York, including Ashland Oil, Bethlehem Steel, Hooker Chemical, Donner Hanna Coke and Durez Plastics. Some of the major contractors who have employed insulators from Local 4 include Frontier Insulation, Niagara Insulation and Buffalo Insulation Distributors.

Local 4 insulators apply thermal insulation to any equipment or apparatus that requires a controlled internal temperature. Up until the early 1970s, asbestos was incorporated into insulating materials utilized by Local 4 insulators, including pipe covering, insulating cement and block insulation. Many members of Local 4 have developed and died of mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases as a result of their exposure to asbestos while working as insulators.

A large construction project or industrial site, such as Marine Midland Center or DuPont, contained miles of steam and hot water pipes, which were covered with asbestos-containing pipe covering. Simply handling pipe covering caused asbestos dust and fibers to become airborne. Insulators often had to cut asbestos-containing pipe covering with a saw or knife in order to fit irregular lengths of pipe. When insulators cut pipe covering, asbestos dust was emitted into the air, which the insulators inhaled. At power houses and other industrial sites, Local 4 insulators took part in a periodic maintenance procedure called a “shutdown”. During a shutdown, insulators removed old, worn insulation and replaced it with new insulation. Clouds of asbestos-containing dust were created while removing and applying pipe covering during shutdowns.

Asbestos-containing insulating cement was applied to irregularly-shaped equipment, including pumps and valves. It was also occasionally used in order to cover block insulation on boilers and other high-temperature applications. Insulating cement was manufactured as a dry powder, and it was typically shipped to a job site in a heavy paper bag. In order to prepare insulating cement for application, insulators poured the dry powder into a pail or tub and mixed it with water. Pouring and mixing insulating cement caused asbestos-containing dust to become airborne.

Steam boilers in nearly every large building or work site were often insulated with asbestos-containing block insulation. Kettles, tanks and vessels at chemical plants were also covered with block insulation. Local 4 insulators cut and shaped block insulation with saws and knives in order to fit it to the contours of the equipment. When asbestos-containing block insulation was handled or cut, asbestos fibers were emitted.

The attorneys at Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products used by members of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Local 4. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed as an insulator for Local 4 and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, please contact us regarding your legal rights.