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Asbestos Management: OSHA Guided Work Zones

asbestos management, asbestos removal, mesothelioma cancer

Regulated Asbestos Standards: OSHA Guided Work Zones

Employees who work in regulated asbestos zones should not only be provided amenities as a luxury or convenience, but as a means to be compliant and safe. Although asbestos mining has been barred in the United States, asbestos is still legal. After thinking of the many harmful effects of asbestos, many people might wonder why not just avoid asbestos altogether. Here is what you need to know about asbestos management.

Asbestos Management: Workers Deal With Asbestos Exposure

Since asbestos has been around for centuries, mined around the world, and legal in the United States, asbestos will likely be around for a long time to come. Unfortunately, individuals in many trades have to work with asbestos daily. Asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral fiber that is found in the earth. The mineral fibers which are grouped together are widely known as asbestos.

When inhaled, these fibers can cause severe symptoms of discomfort and illness such as irritation, lung disease, lung cancer, and rare cancer called mesothelioma. Here workers are exposed to asbestos fibers but are well guarded against the exposure they undertake every day. Employers are mandated to provide respirators, protective clothing, and equipment for workers to use. Firsthand the protection available to workers is more often offered to start the job. Still, the amenities or facilities may be insufficiently equipped when personnel transfers from that regulated work area- a negative factor in asbestos management.

Employer Monitors Movement Between Workspace and Break Room

Another intricate aspect of a regulated asbestos standard employer must monitor the transition of authorized workers from the work area into the breakroom portions of the facility. The employer and employee must prevent the transmission of airborne asbestos fibers into decontaminated areas where personal events such as eating, drinking, and personal hygiene take place.

However, asbestos management is not limited to only this.

Do Not Overlook Facilities And Amenities

Usually, the lack of providing protective clothing, respirator, and equipment used in regulated worksites or work zones is not the first thing overlooked by employers. Frequently, the facilities or amenities of employers are either insufficient or non-existent in providing a safe platform for employees to decontaminate and remove asbestos particles before they leave a regulated work area. 

Employees who enter these areas are no longer protected with equipment or respirators, which then subjects them to firsthand secondary asbestos exposure from the contaminated work area. These transitions or movements by employees are critical in preventing further airborne spread from any particles brought out from frontline transfer from the regulated work area. So, what’s the best method for asbestos management?

OSHA Guidelines and Asbestos Standard

Employees or contractors who work in regulated areas where asbestos is prevalent or highly suspect must be provided with clean changing rooms, showers, and decontaminated lunchrooms. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets forth guidelines for regulated areas and evaluations of standards set for a worker’s protection involving his surrounding industry or workplace environment.

OSHA does set a standard or qualification for asbestos management that employers who frequent and fall under the regulations which deem them a regulated area, to comply with the industry workplace standards set for their worker protection initiative.

OSHA strictly adheres to exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, record keeping, regulated areas, and communication of hazards. These are guidelines in place by the agency for employers to match or mirror their workers’ safety and well-being. Not only does OSHA take these guidelines and safety requirements very seriously, but employers should comply with these requirements for the sake of their worker’s health and safety.

Asbestos Permissible Exposure Limit Measurements

One guideline for setting an asbestos standard to be measured by is a permissible exposure monitoring limit. This guideline is a measurement which sets a limit for an employee not to be exposed to more than a certain amount of airborne asbestos in a given amount of time and excess. Currently, OSHA has set these limits following other agencies for measuring these limits and categorizing them for a time-weighted average (TWA) or as an excursion limit (ELT).

 The time weighted-average shall be measured to ensure that the employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos of no more than 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of (1f/cc) as averaged over an eight-hour time-weighted average. Then the excursion limit (EL) shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 1.0 fiber per cubic centimeter of air (0.1 f/cc) as averaged over a testing period of 30 minutes.

Medical Surveillance

According to asbestos management standard, every year an employer must initiate a medical surveillance program for all employees who will be exposed to airborne asbestos at or above the permissible exposure level or excursion limit. Physical examinations for these employees must be done annually, and the employer must provide a copy of the receipt to the medical professional’s opinion to the employee within 30 days of the examination.

 These receipts for medical records are kept confidential. The only information the employer can see from the medical professional is the opinion in regards to the employee’s possible exposure to asbestos.

Record Keeping

All medical records or professional opinions must be kept for at least one year on behalf of the employer, even up to a full year after the employee might leave the job or company. In addition, the employer must keep all exposure measurements in regards to (TWA) and (EL) for at least 30 years.

For all property owners, facility, and company owners, the records for the properties must be kept and passed on to its successors even after closing or selling the company. All other forfeitures or business closings must still be notified for up to three months or 90 days to the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).

Regulated Areas

Once an area is a regulated asbestos industry-standard work area, then compliance and provisions must be provided to abide by OSHA guidelines. As an employer, these guidelines must strictly be followed by authorized personnel, and the posting of warning signs is mandatory. These signs must contain the following information: danger, asbestos, cancer, and lung disease, authorized personnel only, respirators, and protective clothing are required in this area.

There are other asbestos management regulations. Warning labels must be present on any containers that preside within the regulated workplace area. The labels must read danger, contains asbestos fibers, avoid creating dust, and cancer and lung disease hazard. If the container contains less than 1.0 on an excursion limit measurement, then a label is not required, but sometimes it is better safe than sorry. A regulated area must ban smoking, eating, chewing gum or tobacco, drinking, and cosmetic application usage. Furthermore, authorized personnel should only be allowed and must be supplied with an appropriate regulator.

Communication Of Hazards

Companies or building owners must keep records of the amount or possible presence of asbestos-containing materials for the whole time they own the building and then must release the records once the building is sold or transferred.

Any contractors or cleaning services performing work in a building built on or before 1980, according to OSHA, must train or provide information on where asbestos may be located within the building to the contractor or their employees. This may include treating all asphalt, flooring, and ceiling tile as if they might contain asbestos.

Clean Transition Areas Must Be Provided

As a whole, any employer must supply a clean decontaminated area for employees to break and change in after going to and from work. The facilities around the regulated work area must be maintained daily inside and out.

Asbestos particles or dust must not be left to accumulate as a result of the build-up from the work area. The employer must then make sure that the asbestos debris is properly cleaned up with HEPA filtered vacuums and or wet vacuumed as described for different industry applications.

Asbestos Not Taken Lightly 

Once a day of work is done, you can bet a lot of people do not want to take it home. Asbestos particles are no laughing matter. When you leave work, make sure that you remove the contaminated clothing and clean or dispose of it properly. The last thing anyone wants to do is carry their work home with them or the lifelong effect that asbestos exposure can provide.

 If you or a loved one are suffering from the harmful effects of years of asbestos exposure from construction industries or any vocation, please do not hesitate to call an experienced asbestos attorney.

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