Today's definition of a sawyer is someone who works with stone, as opposed to a carpenter, who works with wood. Actually, the term "sawyer" has been around for quite some time. Prior to the 20th century, the word referred to an individual who sawed timber into planks of wood. The planks were then generally used to build homes.
Though the definition of a sawyer has changed over the centuries, the fact remains that the sawyer has long played an important role in the construction of buildings in countries around the world.
Sawyers and Asbestos
The sawyers of the 20th century are usually involved with stone work - generally on a large scale basis. That means they cut stone and concrete slab to ready it for use at a construction site, making sure it is sized to fit properly at the locations in which it will be used.
For decades, prior to the asbestos warnings of the mid 1970s, sawyers would cut or saw stone materials that contained asbestos, including cement sheets and pipes. The act of cutting, sawing, or drilling would release tiny asbestos fibers into the air, causing the sawyer and those around him to inhale the dangerous dust.
Because they were unaware of the hazards of working with asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, sawyers and those who worked nearby may not have worn proper gear to prevent inhalation. Even if they wore thin paper face masks, as some did, that may not have been enough to stop sharp asbestos fibers from being inhaled and entering their lungs.
Sawyers and others who do demolition work at old buildings that may contain asbestos should continue to be diligent about wearing respirators on the job. Asbestos sheets and pipes may be present and damaging them can result in widespread airborne asbestos fibers.
Though asbestos is no longer used in the building materials a sawyer encounters most often, an individual who worked in this profession 30 - 50 years ago may still be susceptible to developing an asbestos-related disease, as these diseases often lay dormant for up to five decades. Former sawyers who are experiencing breathing problems or chest pain should visit their doctor to rule out asbestos-related diseases as the cause.
Last modified: December 09, 2009.