Asbestos Job Risks: How to Mitigate Its Hazards
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is found in certain types of rocks and soil and was once a popular material to use in building and home construction. However, in the 1970s, researchers discovered that asbestos, when broken, crushed, or otherwise disturbed, can cause severe long-term health risks to those who are exposed to it.
Both the construction and industrial fields are some of the top contenders for encountering asbestos job risks. Given so much of America’s infrastructure contains asbestos, it takes comprehensive, rigorous strategies to mitigate these risks. Here, we provide some insights about asbestos hazards and the best ways to mitigate them on your jobsite.
The Importance of Mitigation
There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Although short-term exposure doesn’t pose serious health risks, repeated, long-term asbestos exposure can cause workers to develop serious medical conditions. These may include:
- Mesothelioma, a cancer of the body’s mesothelial tissues
- Scarring of the lung tissue
- Loss of lung function
- Other types of lung cancer
With so many serious consequences of asbestos exposure, it’s crucial to know if your jobsite presents an exposure risk.
Is There Asbestos on My Jobsite?
Although work-related asbestos exposure has dropped over the past several decades, many professionals are still exposed to it. It was used in thousands of products that workers commonly interact with today, including caulking, cement sheeting, electrical breakers, and more. As a result, some of the most at-risk jobsite types include:
Since industrial equipment often generates heat, many past engineers used asbestos to insulate it. When industrial employees operate or maintain these tools today, asbestos exposure has often been the invisible result.
On construction worksites, workers often come into contact with asbestos-containing materials (ACM). They are especially at risk when painting, roofing, installing drywall, or installing tiles in older homes and buildings.
Regardless of setting, most occupational workers in the United States are exposed to asbestos during activities that include maintenance, repair, renovation, or removal. This point is illustrated by data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which was cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. In short, roughly 1.3 million industrial and construction employees experience on-the-job asbestos exposure during these activities.
Mitigation Strategies for Asbestos
As a best management practice, if you suspect that asbestos is present on the jobsite, employees shall be notified about the potential for exposure either in writing or through verbal means. Companies may also contact professionals to test, remove, or encapsulate the asbestos. These asbestos specialists should be accredited and vetted before performing any removal services.
If asbestos is known to be present at the jobsite, workers should take the following measures:
- Use protective equipment, such as face masks and gloves.
- Clean up waste, ensuring to double-bag and properly dispose of it at a licensed location.
- Wash hands and other exposed areas before leaving.
Enhance Your Asbestos Knowledge
One of the best ways to stay safe from jobsite asbestos exposure is by arming employees with knowledge. ClickSafety offers dedicated online safety resources on asbestos awareness, including the Asbestos Hazards Toolbox Talk, Asbestos Hazards for Construction, Asbestos Awareness for General Industry, and Advanced Asbestos Awareness for Property Management. To learn more or register for a course, contact us today.