Construction workers are at high risk for asbestos exposure. Even though asbestos is banned in more than 55 countries, it can still be found in several construction materials like flooring, insulation, roofing etc. Workers can easily be exposed to this dangerous substance during construction jobs like renovations and demolitions. The inhalation of asbestos particles may put construction workers are at increased risk of developing several life-threatening diseases.
Asbestos Hazards Risk and Construction Workers:
Prolonged exposure to asbestos particles during construction tasks like remodelling, demolition or maintenance of a building can lead to serious ailments including lung cancer, mesothelioma or other fatal diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established enforced exposure limits and set some regulations to protect construction workers from hazards of asbestos. However, organizations often do not comply with the regulations and put construction workers at risk.
While exposing to asbestos may seem unavoidable for construction workers, there are a couple of preventive measures that can be followed to limit asbestos exposure.
Identify Asbestos or ACM Regulated Jobsites
Buildings installed in the 1920s are more likely to contain asbestos products than modern constrictions. Hence, the risk of asbestos exposure is higher for construction workers if any sort of renovation or demolition of an older building is taking place. It is the personal responsibility of the owners to identify asbestos or ACM and inform the workers about it. Since there is no record to identify buildings containing asbestos, inquiring about the ACM from the homeowner is important before deploying workers at the construction site.
Enquire Employer about the Risks and Safety Measures
Since many construction works involve asbestos products, you need to be proactive and vigilant enough to gather necessary information about the job site. If you are doubtful about the asbestos dangers in the workplace, do not hesitate to ask your employers if there is proper protective equipment or what preventive measures he is going to take to ensure your safety. When it comes to ensuring prevention against asbestos exposure, staying well informed is the key.
Wear a Respirator Mask with Highly Efficient Filters:
Since asbestos exposure happens when a person inhales the microscopic asbestos particles, wearing a highly effective mask is one of the vital steps in prevention. To get the best protection against asbestos exposure, workers should be given HEPA-filter masks. Equipped with high-efficiency particulate air filters, this mask can capture at least 99.97 percent of the harmful fibre. While working with asbestos-containing products, workers must use proper asbestos mask and equipment to ensure protection from the asbestos fibres. For non licenced asbestos work & short working durations when working with asbestos, disposable, half-mask or semi-disposable respirators that provide the correct level of protection can be worn however If you need to work for long duration's or if you have a beard or stubble, you will need a powered respirator.
Asbestos Safety Training is Must:
Asbestos awareness training or safety courses should be given to construction workers who perform asbestos-related jobs. From informing them about the factors that contribute to asbestos exposure, preventive measures to avoid health hazards, to the proper using of safety equipment etc, the course includes several important topics. The training programmes also talk about the guidelines to prevent asbestos exposure on the construction sites.
Wear Asbestos Protective Clothing:
To avoid asbestos exposure, wearing asbestos protective clothing is important for workers. When working with asbestos, wearing full-body covering suits, gloves, face shields, head and foot coverings should be mandatory for construction workers. The contaminated clothing should be washed in a controlled environment to minimize asbestos exposure.
Wet method to Suppress Asbestos Fibre release
The wet method involves spraying water at low pressure to the asbestos- containing materials to prevent the release of asbestos particles or fibres into the air. Continuously wetting down the asbestos materials helps to reduce the release of asbestos particles and fibres.
Removal of Asbestos Materials Properly
Asbestos removal should only be performed by licensed and properly trained asbestos professionals. Workers involved with asbestos removal or maintenance must follow the guidelines and instructions set by OSHA to ensure safety. While working with asbestos, construction workers must take precautions to avoid health-related hazards of asbestos exposure.
These following Tips are Very Important for Employees Who Work with Asbestos-Containing Materials:
- Do not enter an asbestos-regulated area without the appropriate respiratory mask.
- Do not eat, smoke or drink cosmetics in an asbestos-regulated area.
- Obey all warning signs displayed in asbestos-regulated areas.
- Always carry complete asbestos protection kit including socks, gloves, bodysuit etc when entering an asbestos regulated area.
- After working with asbestos-containing materials, follow all the necessary decontamination procedures.
- Do not bring contaminated clothes at home and take shower after working with asbestos.
When your job directly or indirectly involves hazardous materials like asbestos, be proactive and take precautions to ensure safety. Constructions workers may not always avoid working with asbestos but with proper safety measures and required skill, they can minimize potentially hazardous exposure.