|How to Protect Yourself from Asbestos at Work?|
People who might be exposed to high levels of asbestos at work include some miners, factory workers, insulation manufacturers and installers, railroad and automotive workers, ship builders, gas mask manufacturers, plumbers, and construction workers. If there is a chance of on-the-job exposure, such as during the renovation of old buildings, you should use all protective equipment and safety procedures designed for working around asbestos.
Older homes may have insulation containing asbestos or other materials. A knowledgeable expert can check your home to find out if there is any asbestos and whether it poses any risk of exposure. This may mean testing the air for asbestos levels. Just because asbestos exists in a home does not necessarily mean that it needs to be removed. As long as the material is not damaged or disturbed, for example by drilling or remodeling, the fibers will not be released into the air. If asbestos needs to be removed from your home, you should hire a qualified contractor to do this to avoid contaminating your home or causing any exposure to your family or to the workers. You should not attempt to remove asbestos-containing material yourself.
Asbestos can also be found in some commercial and public buildings (including some schools), where the same basic principles apply. Intact, undisturbed materials containing asbestos generally do not pose a health risk. They may pose a risk if they are damaged, are disturbed in some way, or deteriorate over time and release asbestos fibers into the air. By federal law, all schools are required to inspect materials with asbestos regularly and to have a plan in place for managing them.
Although awareness of asbestos health risks has improved over the years, employers still may not be taking the proper steps to prevent harmful workplace exposures. In fact, a 2015 study reported airborne asbestos levels exceeding OSHA standards at many job sites from 1984 to 2011.
How to Protect Yourself from Asbestos at Work
This finding stresses how important it is for workers to take their own precautions around asbestos and report any unsafe work conditions to OSHA. If you work in one of many occupations where asbestos exposure may occur, you can take the following steps to help prevent asbestos exposure and related health conditions:
- Ask your employer about any asbestos health risks in your workplace
- Never cut, saw, drill, sand, scrape or otherwise disturb asbestos-containing materials
- Always wear proper protective gear when your work may disturb asbestos
- Don't bring home work clothes or shoes that may have been contaminated with asbestos
- Don't sweep, dust or vacuum asbestos debris
- Always dispose of asbestos materials according to state and federal regulations
When removing asbestos materials, follow proper abatement methods to ensure complete safety. Never perform asbestos work for your employer if you are not trained and certified. If you lack the proper training in asbestos removal, leave this type of work to professionals.