Have you seen this asbestos awareness requirement in your RAVS® section for ISNetworld®?
Up until 1989, Asbestos was a common substance used in insulation, drywall and other household products. It has some other uses as well but is a toxic substance if exposed in large quantities and has also been deemed a cancer-causing mineral. Asbestos has been used for decades in thousands of commercial products, such as insulation and fireproofing materials, automotive brakes and textile products, and cement and wallboard materials. Worker exposure to asbestos hazards are addressed in specific OSHA standards for the construction industry (29 CFR 1926.1101), general industry (29 CFR 1910.1001), and shipyard (29 CFR 1915.1001) employment sectors. These standards reduce the risk to workers by requiring that employers provide personal exposure monitoring to assess the risk and hazard awareness training for operations where there is any potential exposure to asbestos.
Hazards Associated with Asbestos
Asbestos Awareness is a critical component. The most common exposure pathway is through inhalation of fibers. Some minor pathways include ingestion and dermal contact. Although the use of asbestos and asbestos products has dramatically decreased in recent years, they are still found in many residential and commercial settings and continue to pose a health risk to workers and others. When handled, asbestos can separate into microscopic-size particles, too small to be seen with the naked eye, that remain in the air and are easily inhaled. Breathing asbestos fibers can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis and result in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death.
Signs and symptoms of asbestos exposure include:
- Shortness of breath (primary symptom)
- Cough (a cough that expels mucus)
- Chest tightness
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- A dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling
Identifying Risks of Exposure
It is not easy to identify an Asbestos-Containing Material (ACM) simply by looking at it. If workers suspect material contains asbestos, it should not be touched or disturbed. Look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage and report it to the employer.
Types of asbestos-containing material include:
- Loose fill asbestos fiber
- Asbestos sprayed coatings
- Asbestos thermal insulation
- Asbestos insulating board (AIB)
- Asbestos cement products
- Asbestos textured coatings
- Asbestos paper, felt, and card
- Asbestos reinforced plastics
- Thermoplastic floor tiles
- Compressed asbestos fiber gasket
- Asbestos ARC shield/chutes
- Asbestos bitumen products
If the material appears damaged or future activities could disturb it, contact a trained and accredited asbestos professional. Limit access to the area until a professional can confirm the presence of asbestos.
The best way to avoid asbestos exposure is to be knowledgeable about the asbestos materials at your worksite, including their locations and current condition. Employers should contact the building owners or managers to have the worksite inspected for asbestos-containing materials by a trained and accredited asbestos professional. For slightly damaged asbestos-containing material, it may be necessary to limit access to the area and not to touch or disturb it. If asbestos-containing material is more than slightly damaged or if ongoing work might disturb it, a competent person may be needed to repair or remove the material before work continues.
An assessment of workplaces should be completed to determine if asbestos is present and if the work will generate any airborne fibers by a specific method under each standard. To determine expected exposures, a competent person should perform an initial exposure assessment to assess exposures immediately before an operation begins.
Be aware of where asbestos may exist and take actions not to disturb it. If a worker is unsure if they’ve encountered Asbestos-Containing Material, the material should be treated as if it does contain asbestos.
Workers should avoid touching or disturbing any possible Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM) on the jobsite. Make sure to:
- Report the material to a supervisor or the employer
- Broken and fallen ceiling tiles should be left in place until identified
- Broken and damaged asbestos floor tiles must only be removed by asbestos abatement workers
- Building owners or managers can talk to local or state environmental agencies or an asbestos contractor about having ACM safely removed
Workers can help reduce asbestos exposure outside by:
- Wetting the ground before starting work and throughout the job
- Driving slowly on unpaved roads to not kick up dust
- Wearing a mask to prevent inhalation of the fibers. If asbestos fibers become airborne, they may be inhaled
- Supporting the local ordinance and regulations can help reduce the level of construction dust
Asbestos awareness training is another critical component. Training requirements depend on the workplace exposure and classification. Training must be provided to all workers exposed at or above the PEL before work begins and yearly thereafter. All training must be conducted in a manner and language in which the worker is able to understand. Workers who perform housekeeping operations in buildings with presumed asbestos containing materials but not at the PEL should also be provided asbestos awareness training. Employers must provide a free training program for all employees who are likely to be exposed in excess of a PEL and for all employees performing Class I through IV asbestos operations.
Employees must be trained prior to or at initial assignment and annually thereafter.
If you are looking to implement an asbestos training program, JJ Safety can help with our DIY in-house asbestos awareness training kit. We also have online training options as well. Give us a call if you have any questions about asbestos or anything safety related.
Call 866-627-3850 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.