How Does OSHA Protect Workers Against Asbestos Contamination?
Asbestos is a carcinogenic substance that poses great risks to human health and causes several severe conditions like asbestosis or mesothelioma. Entering in contact with this element is still possible although asbestos use is limited. Find out more about the risks and the OSHA regulations.
What Is OSHA?Osha is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as such, it has the right and duty to establish safety standards for hazardous substances like asbestos that raise occupational risks. Violating the usage standard imposed by this organization increases the risk of contamination and may lead to serious legal consequences. Despite the numerous lawsuits and high fines, several companies had to face to these regulations' breach; the safety standards are often disregarded especially in the construction and demolition sector.
Why are these fields worth mentioning? Because nowadays they probably pose the highest risks of asbestos exposure. This substance's mining was prohibited in the US in 2002, and it gradually disappeared from other industries where it has been a prime material during the past century.
Nonetheless, dealing with the massive amounts of asbestos that are still present in the buildings that were built prior to the 80s is difficult. Demolishing these houses or simply performing refurbishment works in there is dangerous because it will most likely disturb the asbestos that is present in the walls.
Few people are aware of this fact when they start renovating old houses on their own. If you are in this situation, it is recommended to contact a firm which specializes in asbestos removal and can do the necessary operations using safety equipment.
So, if these companies exist, how come is asbestos exposure still an issue? The answer is simple, companies don't always invest the required safety equipment that can protect their workers, nor do they train people properly before allowing them to remove asbestos. Asbestos is easily released during refurbishment or removal and automatically inhaled because it is invisible.
Therefore, it's important for those who are doing these jobs, or for those who employ them, to know that there are strict safety measurements that apply to any site and operation that might expose them to asbestos.
What Are the Regulations Regarding Asbestos?Getting prior training: people who expose themselves to asbestos by removing materials that contain this substance should receive proper training before they are allowed to perform these tasks. Their employer must make sure that these workers are aware of the correlated health hazards and are able to use the necessary safety equipment and work instructions that will mitigate contamination risks.
Securing the area: before starting any renovation or removal operation that raises asbestos contamination risks, the site where these works will be carried on must be secured by using warning signs and measures that prevent unauthorized people from accessing it.
Wearing protective equipment: companies who deploy their employees in areas that contain asbestos should provide them with the following personal protective equipment (PPE):
- protective respiratory equipment
- equipment that protects their hands, feet, head, eyes, and face; such as overalls, gumboots, etc.
- protection equipment for hearing
- personal falls arrest systems
Performing proper decontamination: after the removal is completed, it is necessary to decontaminate the area. There are specific decontamination measurements that must be implemented such as changing the filters of the air-conditioning system and monitoring the air's quality.
The equipment that has been used to perform the works should also be decontaminated. The clothing used during the works should be safely removed and properly labeled before being sent to laundering or disposed of.