According to OSHA, there are an estimated 1.3 million employees in the construction and general industry that face significant asbestos exposure on the job. Other workers involved are those in the manufacture of products that contain asbestos: textiles, friction products, insulation and other building materials, and persons that do automotive brake and clutch repair work.
Structures that were built before 1980 likely contain asbestos, and those constructed thereafter still may have ACM’s (asbestos containing materials.) Plaster, insulation, tiles on floors and ceilings ductwork, roof shingles, adhesives are among the parts of buildings that have ACM’s.
Although asbestos is still legal, under federal rules, it is classified as a toxic substance. Your home, school, or office more than likely has asbestos. It is not a threat as long as it is undisturbed and in good condition. If you plan to continue living/working in this building, here are ways to ensure safety:
- If the floor, ceiling, etc. are in good shape, leave them alone and undisturbed. Be sure to check them often to see that they are in good condition.
- Enclose with airtight barriers. For example, floor tiles could be covered with another type of flooring.
- Encapsulate with materials that surrounds or embeds the fibers with materials such as foams.
If your only option is to renovate or destroy the building, here is some valuable information: individual owners may do it themselves, but they still must follow federal, state and local guidelines regarding waste transport and disposal. Removal is a very expensive and complex option, and is better handled by contractors with special training, who understand the importance of personal protective equipment, isolation of dust, and monitor waste containment. Contractors must follow OSHA guidelines and regulations.
If non-friable ACM can be removed whole and undamaged, the precautions listed below may be overkill, but for common situations such as removing ACM’s where free-floating asbestos fibers are an invisible hazard, these are instructions must be followed to ensure the workers’ safety: they should
- Be covered, head to toe, with disposable protective clothing
- Wear special respirators with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters
- Wear non-fogging goggles,
- Use rubber boots and gloves
OSHA prevention measures include requiring companies to provide engineering controls such as evaluating exposure time, furnishing showers, and ensuring that proper respiratory protection and clothing are furnished.
There are “many do-it-yourselfers” that may not understand the underlying respiratory problems that can be caused by little critters hiding in their houses. We hope this article aids in their becoming conscious of the importance of using proper protection when undertaking projects that require extra safety measures.