Special Topics in Safety Management

Work Safely with Asbestos? It’s Possible

Given the risks of working with asbestos, safety must always be a priority. Effective employee training and other precautions such as engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) are necessary to keep workers safe.

OSHA’s asbestos standard (29 CFR 1910.1001) requires you to inform employees who might be exposed to asbestos about the hazards and necessary precautions to prevent exposure. Although there are no specific training points identified in the standard, asbestos safety training programs should generally include the following information:

  • Hazards and health effects of asbestos
  • Locations and specific operations where asbestos might be encountered
  • Engineering controls and safe work practices
  • Exposure limits and exposure monitoring
  • Respirators and other PPE
  • Hygiene and housekeeping procedures
  • Medical surveillance program

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls should also be used to prevent exposure whenever possible, including:

•   Exhaust systems
•   Dust collection and cleaning systems
•   Hoods to cover operations that might release fibers into the air
•   Tools with built-in exhaust systems
•   Shrouds for tools like grinders

Safe Work Practices

Safe work practices can help control the release of asbestos fibers. For example, workers should be instructed to:

  • Make sure they have properly identified any potential asbestos or asbestos-containing materials before they start a job.
  • Wet asbestos and asbestos-containing materials before handling, cutting, etc., to reduce release of fibers.
  • Practice good housekeeping, using wet vacs with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters—never dry vacs, brooms, or compressed air.
  • Avoid drilling into asbestos-containing materials.
  • Avoid sanding floors or other materials containing asbestos.

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Rules for use of respirators and other PPE, such as coveralls, gloves, foot coverings, and eye protection, include:

•   Always wear all assigned PPE.
•   Inspect PPE before use to make sure it is in good condition.
•   Remove contaminated PPE and work clothing carefully to avoid release of asbestos fibers.
•   Place contaminated PPE and work clothing into sealed, labeled containers.


Good hygiene practices are especially important in preventing asbestos exposure. Employees should be trained to:

  • Store street clothing separately from work clothing.
  • Never eat, drink, or smoke in an asbestos area.
  • Remove work clothes in designated changing rooms (and leave them for washing) before entering other work areas.
  • Never use compressed air to clean off work clothes.
  • Shower at the end of workday before changing into street clothes.

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What you’ve just read is a small sample of training information from BLR’s OSHA Training System. As its name implies, this is a complete system to meet your full training needs—not just asbestos safety. All the materials are prepared in advance, so no prep time is required. All you do is reproduce what you need and put it to use. Materials include:

  • 32 complete safety units, meeting every key OSHA standard. Each includes full background for trainers, a ready-to-use safety meeting, and follow-up handouts. View a Table of Contents.
  • Quizzes, handouts, and copies of 27 different employee booklets, coordinated to the safety meetings. (Booklets can be bought in any quantity at a discount.)
  • A complete training recordkeeping and tracking system that tells you which employees need what training, and then tracks your program to ensure they get it.
  • Quarterly updates, included with the program. You receive at least 4 new safety units every 90 days, covering new OSHA standards and training needs.

If you share the common problem of never having enough time or the right materials for training, we’d suggest you examine the OSHA Training System program. We’ve arranged for you to do so for up to 30 days at no cost or risk. Just let us know, and we’ll be happy to make all the arrangements.

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