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Guide to Asbestos in the Workplace
Courtesy of Asbestos News & Mesothelioma Treatment Centers

Asbestos is a well-known hazard in many workplaces – whether the asbestos is part of the work itself, or whether it is simply in components of the building or site where work is being performed. Employers are bound by regulations of both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that serve to protect employees from asbestos exposure on the job.

If you are aware of asbestos in a workplace for which you are responsible, it’s in your best interest and that of your employees to know how, when, and even whether to deal with the asbestos – for everyone’s safety.

Action Steps

– Take asbestos seriously
– Asbestos is carcinogenic. Exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other serious health problems.

If asbestos-containing products are not disturbed and are not in poor or deteriorating condition, it is likely that they can be safely left in place. Disturbing or manipulating asbestos can release the dangerous fibers, which can stay suspended and unseen in the air for hours or days, ready to be inadvertently inhaled. An asbestos abatement contractor can examine the asbestos components in your workplace and tell you whether they ought to be removed.

Make sure that your workplace is OSHA and EPA compliant.

If the work performed at your site directly involves asbestos-containing materials or products, for example in industries such as:

* Shipbuilding

* Building construction, renovation or demolition

* Vehicle clutch and brake repair work

* Asbestos mining and milling

* Asbestos product manufacturing

Even if the work being performed at your company does not involve asbestos, there may be a dangerous amount of asbestos dust or fibers in the air, whether from deterioration of some of the building products such as insulation or boiler room components, or from renovations (planned or past) that may release carcinogenic levels of asbestos. Do not deal with deteriorating asbestos or asbestos renovations without guidance.

OSHA provides an interactive software program called ‘The Asbestos Advisor 2.0’ that shows how to comply with asbestos standards. The program is geared toward the owners, tenants, and managers of buildings, contractors who perform building renovations that may involve asbestos, and housekeeping companies. The program asks the user a series of questions about the building and employees at issue, and creates a report giving the OSHA-relevant response.

Know the signs of toxic asbestos exposure.

OSHA estimates that more than one million workers in construction and general industry in the U.S. are subjected to significant asbestos exposure as part of their work. Employers should be aware of the symptoms of elevated asbestos exposure, which can include:

* pain in the chest or abdomen

* shortness of breath

* prolonged hoarseness

* difficulty swallowing

* blood in fluid coughed up from the lungs

* significant weight loss

If your employee is experiencing such symptoms, immediate medical care is advised.

Tips & Tactics

If you’re not sure what the many forms of asbestos look like, get on the internet, where many pictures of asbestos products and asbestos fibers can be found.

If you’ve found materials or products at your worksite that you suspect may contain asbestos, begin the process of determining whether they should be removed, if they need to go, find out how to remove them safely.

If you’re in doubt about how to go about removing asbestos components at your workplace, contact a certified asbestos abatement contractor, found in any business telephone directory. Many contractors will provide a free estimate.

Don’t let your employees handle asbestos-containing materials or products. The level of asbestos they may be exposed to is not worth the risk or the convenience of doing it yourself.