small_builders_23_-_asbestos_1

Do you fear exposure to asbestos? Asbestos is the commercial name of a variety of six naturally occurring mineral fiber. These minerals have high tensile strength, flexibility, resistance to chemical and thermal degradation, and electrical resistance. It has been used for commercial products such as building materials, insulation, automotive brakes and cement.

Asbestos fibers are invisible to the naked eye and microscopic-sized. Contact can pose a health risk to workers. Know about the hazards of Asbestos and protect yourself, your workers and your business.

Health Hazards
Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, it chronic exposure can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. Additionally, it can also cause gastrointestinal, throat, kidney, esophagus and gallbladder cancers. It can also cause Asbestosis, an inflammatory condition that can affect the lungs causing shortness of breath and permanent lung damage.

Workers may be exposed to asbestos when they disturb asbestos containing products and inhale the hazardous mineral. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cites that contact may occur when manufacturing asbestos- containing products, performing brake or clutch repairs and renovating or demolishing buildings. Some materials installed before 1981 contain asbestos. Vinyl floor tiles, plaster cement and roofing are some of the examples.

Take note of these factors from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that can determine how asbestos can affect a worker:

  • Exposure concentration
  • Exposure duration
  • Exposure frequency
  • Medical history. Cigarette smoke and asbestos can extensively raise your chances of getting lung cancer.

Workers at risk.
Asbestos is actually in the water, air and soil. However the low levels cannot make us sick. Constant exposure and direct handling of materials from job sites can.

The National Cancer Institute information says that health hazards from exposure have been seen in shipbuilding trades, asbestos mining and milling, textile manufacturing and insulation work in construction. Demolition workers, firefighters and automobile workers may also be exposed.

Be safe and protect workers.
OSHA has regulations for the exposure of asbestos in the general industry, shipyard and construction. OSHA has set the following guidelines:

  • “Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for asbestos is 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA), with an excursion limit (EL) of 1.0 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter over a 30-minute period. The employer must ensure that no one is exposed above these limits.”
  • Evaluate if asbestos is present in workplaces and if the standard is covered.
  • Constant monitoring is key to be able to detect exposure.
  • “Proper hazard communication and demarcation with warning signs containing specified language in areas that have exposures above the PEL or EL is necessary. No smoking, eating, or drinking should occur in these areas and proper PPE must be provided and used to prevent exposure.”
  • Practice of proper hygiene to workers exposed above the PEL to avoid contamination. Exposed workers should also have separate decontamination and lunch areas.
  • Training must be provided in a language that the worker understands.
  • Medical surveillance must be provided to workers.
  • Keep records of asbestos exposure for at least 30 years.

Sources:
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3507.pdf
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/asbestos
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/asbestos/health_effects/