Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral made of tiny microfibrils. These tiny fibers pose significant health risks when they become airborne since they are carcinogenic. Asbestos has been used in building materials for decades because of its low cost, strength, and resistance to heat. But it is no longer used in any new construction. However, some asbestos is still available in building materials due to the high costs of removing it from existing structures. It is also used to manufacture military and automotive equipment. Asbestos exposure occurs primarily through the inhalation of air that contains asbestos fibers.
Here are some tips to protect you from being exposed to asbestos:
Know your rights as an employee
The Asbestos Health Monitoring and Inspection Regulations require employers to conduct air sampling to ensure asbestos does not exceed permissible exposure limits. Employers are also obligated to inform employees of any asbestos-containing materials they may come in contact with and provide information related to the materials’ health hazards.
Employers are required to provide health supervision to all employees at risk of exposure. They must also offer affected employees access to medical examinations, consultations, and worker training.
When to be concerned
Asbestos fibers can cause mesothelium cancer, primarily affecting the lungs and other organs like the intestine or heart valves. Symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. If you feel you had been exposed to the mineral in a previous job, and are experiencing any symptoms, consult your doctor. You may also contact a mesothelioma attorney if your condition has resulted from asbestos exposure. Your attorney will help you file a mesothelioma claim against your employer and help you secure funds for treatment.
Wear personal protective equipment
Wear a half-face respirator when cutting, drilling, sanding, or sawing asbestos-containing materials. Never use compressed air, dry sweeping, or similar methods to clean up asbestos.
Wear protective clothing, including heavy-duty gloves and a one-time disposable use protective apron. If you have any cuts or open wounds, take extra precautions to cover them to prevent fibers from the source from entering your bloodstream.
Be sure to wash your hands and face before eating, drinking, smoking, or using the restroom. Remove protective clothing in a manner that will keep it from contaminating your skin or regular clothing. Never use tobacco products during work activities, as this causes the inhalation of nicotine, which is also carcinogenic.
You must ensure to be familiar with the appearance of asbestos so you can identify it in your work area. It will help you avoid exposure to asbestos fibers, and it is crucial for complying with regulations from OSHA.
Asbestos fibers are usually tiny and often look like a powder or dust. They are like two-dimensional barium sulfate, which accurately represents the microscopic image of asbestos fibers. While you may not be able to identify the microfibrils immediately, knowing what type of damaged products contain them will help. For example, if the insulation in an old home is damaged, the debris is likely to contain asbestos. So, Google a list of products that could contain the mineral.
Plan for emergencies
Ensure you have knowledge of and quick access to an appropriate, easy-to-use drench hose. Asbestos dust can easily suspend in the air, so you may need to use this hose even if no fire is present. Asbestos drench hoses can help remove and control asbestos dust and debris. If you need to use this hose, ensure you read the manufacturer’s instructions for its use.
Some asbestos products can emit sparks when sawed, drilled, or sanded. When working with these materials, be sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby for fighting asbestos fires. Also, ensure the fire extinguisher is easily accessible so you can quickly remove it from its storage location if necessary. Be sure to have an operator’s manual for the extinguisher at the worksite, as well.
Know your regulations
Ensure your work area’s regulations about protecting yourself from asbestos exposure. If you are unsure of these regulations, you should consult with your supervisor or human resources department for clarification.
You may need to wear specific personal protective equipment at work. You should be familiar with the proper use of this equipment. You may also need to learn how to do an appropriate asbestos abatement cleanup. Some companies will pay for your training, so take advantage of these opportunities. In most cases, asbestos is only a danger when the fibers are airborne. Hence, be sure you know how to perform dust suppression and cleanup techniques.
It would help if you never attempted to remove asbestos-containing materials by yourself. Instead, contact your supervisor to schedule an asbestos removal project for the appropriate time. Let the specialists remove it for you.
Take care of your health
Your employer should provide you with the necessary safety gear to protect yourself from asbestos exposure. But this is not your only line of defense. You should ensure you remain healthy so your body is strong enough to fight potential risks.
When you smoke, it causes the inhalation of carcinogenic nicotine. Avoiding smoking is especially important if you plan to be around asbestos. Other things, such as eating a balanced and nutritious diet and exercising regularly, will also help you maintain a healthy immune system to fight infections and cancer.
Asbestos was once a popular building material, and it is still used in some products today. The only way to be completely safe from asbestos is to avoid it, which isn’t always possible for people who work in some industries. However, you can take steps to protect yourself from exposure to asbestos fibers. By knowing your environment, following safety procedures, and maintaining good hygiene, you can avoid exposure that can lead to mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.