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Willamette Iron and Steel Works

Asbestos exposure at Willamette Iron and Steel Works in Portland has caused workers to develop asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma from working at this Oregon shipyard, contact Bergman Oslund Udo Little. We can determine your eligibility to file an asbestos lawsuit and will diligently fight for the compensation you need and deserve. 

Key Takeaways

Those who worked at Willamette Iron and Steel Works may be eligible for compensation for the harm they suffered due to the company’s use of asbestos. Bergman Oslund Udo Little is committed to getting workers and their families the compensation they deserve for their medical care and pain and suffering. 

Bergman Oslund Udo Little’s asbestos attorneys have over 25 years of experience standing up for justice and relief for workers. Let us fight for you, too. Learn more about asbestos at Willamette Iron and Steel Works and how our team can help if you’ve developed an illness from exposure there. 

Asbestos Use at Willamette Iron and Steel Works

The United States shipbuilding industry is centuries old but grew rapidly during World War II with the massive need for Navy and civilian vessel construction. This increase coincided with peak asbestos use in shipyards for several reasons: 

  • Asbestos was cheap and abundant.  
  • Asbestos is an effective insulator, protecting ships and their components from excessive heat. 
  • Asbestos is durable, strong, and lightweight, making the products sturdy and easy to use.  
  • Asbestos is fire-resistant, and fire is a major concern at shipyards and aboard vessels. 

At Willamette Iron and Steel Works and other shipyards throughout the Pacific Northwest, asbestos products were widely used in construction, maintenance, and operations. Some examples of materials containing asbestos include the following: 

  • Pipe insulation 
  • Pumps 
  • Flooring and ceiling tiles 
  • Cement 
  • Wall panels 
  • Valves 
  • Gaskets 
  • Boilers 
  • Boiler cladding 
  • Ropes 
  • Textiles 
  • Protective clothing 

Asbestos was heavily used in shipyards through the 1970s. As the health risks to shipyard workers became clearer, industries stopped using the materials, but the U.S. government has not completely banned asbestos.  

Asbestos becomes harmful when the products and components containing it wear and break down over time. This releases the microscopic fibers into the air, where they can be inhaled or ingested. The fibers can then become lodged into the tissue surrounding bodily organs, causing inflammation and diseases like mesothelioma, other cancers, and asbestosis. Thus, as workers came into contact with asbestos, it increased the likelihood of developing these diseases.  

You may be eligible for compensation if you or a loved one worked at Willamette Iron and Steel Works and have been diagnosed with one of these diseases. 

Bergman Oslund Udo Little is a Portland asbestos law firm specializing in fighting for the rights of asbestos victims throughout the Pacific Northwest. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.   

Who Was Exposed to Asbestos at Willamette?

Virtually every worker at the Willamette shipyard in Portland was exposed to asbestos. Some occupations in particular danger of developing asbestos-related diseases include the following: 

  • Boiler tenders 
  • Pipefitters 
  • Construction workers 
  • Engine room mechanics 
  • Electricians 
  • Millwrights 
  • Maintenance mechanics 
  • Welders 
  • Sheet metal workers 
  • Carpenters 
  • Insulators 
  • Shipwrights 

Even though the material is no longer used in ship construction, asbestos has not been completely removed from all ships. Shipyard workers could still be at risk of exposure. 

History of Willamette Iron and Steel Works

Willamette Iron and Steel Corporation was established in 1865 as a general foundry and machine business in Portland, Oregon, that specialized in manufacturing steamboat engines and boilers. The company changed its name to Willamette Iron and Steel Works in 1904. 

During World War I, the company built boilers to outfit ships at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, San Francisco Drydock, Todd Shipyard in Tacoma, and other locations. During World War II, it became a full-fledged shipbuilding company as part of Portland’s “shipbuilding boom,” along with other builders like Albina Engine & Machine Works and Northwest Steel. It constructed more than 70 ships on contract to the United States and British governments during that period.  

Willamette Iron and Steel Works Asbestos Lawsuits

Shipyard workers sickened by asbestos exposure have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers, distributors, contractors, and property owners responsible for the exposure.  

Employees of the shipyard generally cannot sue their employer. Instead, their exclusive remedy from their employers for employment-related conditions is workers’ compensation benefits. The state-run workers’ compensation program provides workers with medical benefits and wage replacement without proving anyone was at fault for their injuries. In turn, employers get immunity from lawsuits. 

Willamette Iron and Steel Works Safety Violations

Willamette Iron and Steel Works has also been accused of and cited for numerous workplace safety violations, placing workers at a high risk of injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration received numerous complaints about a lack of basic safety at the company’s facility, resulting in workplace injuries and permanent disabilities.  

In December 1972, the company was accused of violating housekeeping standards. According to court documents, welding leads and hoses were left open on a vessel, resulting in worker injuries.  

Closure of Willamette Iron and Steel Works

Shipyard work at the company’s Portland facility tapered off over the years as larger and more powerful shipyards were built in the area. Ultimately, Willamette Iron and Steel Works could no longer compete and closed its doors in 1990.  

Compensation Options for Willamette Workers Exposed to Asbestos

Asbestos in shipyards like Portland’s Willamette Iron and Steel Works can lead to serious and deadly health conditions. If you have been exposed to asbestos,  inform your doctor immediately and get regular health screenings. If you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you have the right to pursue compensation via several options: 

  • A mesothelioma lawsuit: Most people impacted by asbestos exposure seek justice by filing a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of asbestos-containing products. These cases allow you to seek economic and non-economic damages, including pain and suffering.  
  • An asbestos trust fund claim: As mesothelioma lawsuit filings increased dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, many asbestos product manufacturers filed for bankruptcy. The courts required these companies to establish asbestos trust funds to pay future claims. Currently, there is about $30 billion set aside in these trust funds. Those exposed to asbestos by those companies can pursue claims with these trust funds. 
  • A workers’ compensation claim: Workers’ compensation coverage provides immunity from lawsuits for most employers in Oregon. However, some benefits may be available if you have sustained a work-related illness.  

You deserve justice if you were exposed to asbestos while working at a shipyard and have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease years later. The Washington and Oregon asbestos lawyers at Bergman Oslund Udo Little have secured over $1 billion for asbestos victims in the Pacific Northwest. Our attorneys will fight for the compensation you deserve.   

If you or a loved one has become ill after working at Willamette Iron and Steel Works, contact us for a free case review. 

Other Asbestos Exposure Sites in Oregon and Washington



“7 O.S.H. Cas.(Bna) 1641, 1979 O.S.H.D. (Cch) P 23,797 Willamette Iron and Steel Company V…., 604 F.2d 1177 –” CourtListener, Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.

“1915.51 – Ventilation and Protection in Welding, Cutting and Heating. | Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”,

admin. “Court: Last Employer Responsible for Asbestos Exposure.” Insurance Journal, 14 Dec. 2010, Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.

Bancroft, Hubert Howe, and Frances Fuller Victor. History of Oregon: 1848-1888Google Books, History Company, 1888,

Pacific American Steamship Association, et al. Pacific Marine ReviewInternet Archive, San Francisco, Calif. : J.S. Hines, Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.

US EPA,OCSPP. “EPA Actions to Protect the Public from Exposure to Asbestos | US EPA.” US EPA, 12 Mar. 2013,

“Willamette Iron and Steel Company Records – Archives West.”, Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.

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