9 Ways to Protect Workers from Asbestos
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National Safety Month is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean the focus on safety should. Consult our various blog posts, upcoming webinars and webinar recordings in our “Related Resources” section below, as well as read the following post on asbestos exposures:
Even though most uses of asbestos have been banned, it can still be found in a variety of products, such as building materials and vehicle brakes. Employees can be exposed to this hazardous material during many construction tasks, such as renovations and demolitions.
The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious damage to the lungs and other organs that may not appear until years after exposure. Asbestos fibers associated with these health risks are too small to be seen with the naked eye, and smokers are at a higher risk for developing asbestos-related diseases if exposed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standards to protect employees from exposure to asbestos in the workplace, as well as permissible exposure limits and monitoring. OSHA regulations also exist for controlled zones and regulated areas that are designed to protect employees where certain work with asbestos is performed.
Avoid Asbestos Inhalation
It’s important to train employees to recognize asbestos hazards and ensure medical clearance if the work requires the use of a respirator. Additionally, the following tips should be passed on to employees who work near or with asbestos-containing materials:
- Never enter a controlled zone that’s designated as a regulated area where asbestos work is being performed.
- If you aren’t wearing appropriate respiratory protection, don’t enter an asbestos-regulated area.
- Don’t eat, smoke, drink, chew gum or apply cosmetics in an asbestos-regulated area.
- Read and obey all warning signs displayed in asbestos-regulated areas.
- When working with asbestos, keep the material wet and vacuum the dust using a HEPA vacuum. Immediately collect and close all waste in bags designed to hold asbestos.
- Always wear required protective clothing such as coveralls or similar full-body clothing, head coverings, gloves and foot coverings when working with asbestos. Face shields, goggles and other protective equipment are also necessary.
- Use the correct type of respirator for the level of exposure. If you disturb or remove asbestos, you must wear at least a half-face respirator with N-, R- or P-100 (HEPA) cartridges. OSHA also requires the use of a respirator in some cases when performing roofing and flooring work.
- Follow all required hygiene and decontamination practices after working with asbestos.
- Leave your work clothes and shoes at the workplace and wash them at work if they aren’t disposable. Family members of workers exposed to asbestos can get sick from asbestos taken home on an employee’s clothing or shoes. If required, shower at work after working with asbestos.
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- Watch “How to Create a Safety Culture” Webinar Replay
- Safety Culture Performance Metrics Webinar Replay
- Construction Executive Magazine: Effectively Hiring and Training Summer Help
- Six Ways to Promote Safety without a Director
- How to Break the Ice and Start a Safety Committee
- The Why and How in Building a Safety Culture
- OSHA 10-Hour Construction Training
- Safety E-Book
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