Asbestos fibers are tough, flexible, heat- and fire-resistant, and it provides effective insulation and soundproofing. Typically, it may be found in ceiling and floor tiles, insulation materials, in car brake and clutch linings, and in heat-resistant clothing. When the fibers stay bonded together, asbestos is safe.
Make your employees aware of asbestos and its potential dangers. Asbestos is dangerous when it becomes friable, which means that it crumbles and releases airborne fibers that can be inhaled or ingested. When that happens, asbestos is a serious health hazard causing deadly illnesses that may take years to develop.
- Asbestosis is an untreatable lung disease causing shortness of breath. It may lead to death from cardiac or respiratory failure.
- Mesothelioma is a cancer of the chest lining and is always fatal.
- Since asbestos affects the lungs, it is especially dangerous to smokers.
OSHA has set strict permissible exposure limits (PELs) for asbestos. Respirators are required for workers exposed to more than 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air (0.1f/cc) averaged over an 8-hour workday and 1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air (1f/cc) averaged for a 30-minute work period. In addition to supplying respirators and protective clothing, employers must have a complete respiratory protection program including employee training and annual retraining, employee medical evaluation and fit-testing.
Train your employees to take the following precautions to avoid dangerous exposures to asbestos:
•Always check for asbestos warning labels and signs and take the necessary precautions.
•If you’re not sure if something contains asbestos, ASK!
•Never cut, hammer, or otherwise damage asbestos-containing materials.
•Use ventilation systems, enclosures, wet processes, and other protections to prevent release of asbestos fibers.
•Wear respirators and other required PPE.
•Never wear your contaminated clothing outside the work area.
•Make sure you don’t contaminate clean areas or street clothing with asbestos.
•Treat any dust or waste that could contain asbestos carefully.
•Wet it when possible and use a HEPA vacuum to clean it up.
•Dispose of asbestos-contaminated clothing and waste in proper labeled, sealed containers.
•Don’t smoke if you work around asbestos-better yet, don’t smoke at all!
•Cooperate with air monitoring and medical surveillance programs. They’re designed to protect you.
Yes, asbestos is still around but you can keep your employees safe from its hazards by training and equipping them to work with or around it without dangerous exposure.