Tips to Educate Workers on Occupational Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos could be present in building materials like steel sheets and beams.

Asbestos could be present in building materials like steel sheets and beams.

While workers may not realize it, there is the possibility that a hidden danger like asbestos in the workplace can disrupt their health and well-being. Defined as a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil, asbestos is often found in manufactured goods, fabrics and friction products, and building materials, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Workers will often not notice that they have had contact with asbestos, which could pose a risk to them. Given the health hazards of asbestos, employers could educate their workers about the dangers of this material and train them to remove or avoid this substance in workplaces. 

Recently, the Senate passed a resolution recognizing the 11th annual educational week called "National Asbestos Awareness Week." The week is part of a bigger campaign to raise awareness about this hazardous material called Global Asbestos Awareness Week.

Occupational Exposure to Asbestos
Occupational exposure to asbestos is common: the World Health Organization stated there is an estimated 107,000 fatalities worldwide each year due to asbestos exposure. Health effects of asbestos include lung-related diseases and cancers. 

Industrial workers, especially in the steel industry, are often exposed to asbestos on the job, Asbestos.com reported. Steel sheet workers have a high rate of indirect contact with asbestos because sheet metal may have been coated with asbestos to make it fireproof. They might also be exposed to asbestos whenever workers applying insulation use materials that include asbestos.

Tips to Prevent Asbestos Exposure
Since workers could regularly have contact with asbestos without being aware of it, employers should train workers to both recognize the hazards of asbestos exposure and also control the level of contact. 

Here are four tips to help train workers:

1. Identify possible sources and locations of asbestos
Since there are several ways employees are exposed to asbestos, employers should make sure workers learn where they could come into contact with this material, whether it is handling building materials or products containing asbestos. 

2. Communicate the presence of asbestos in the workplace
As part of a checklist on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's site, employers could make sure that they communicate to employees the materials that have asbestos

3. Provide workers personal protective equipment
Some workers may be more exposed to asbestos to others, which is why employers should supply personal protective equipment like respirators and eye wear to limit exposure. Additionally, companies should train employees on how to properly remove this PPE in case they have been in contact with asbestos. They should also remind them to replace these with clean PPE to avoid further contact. 

"The exposure limit for asbestos is 0.1 f/cc meter of air on an eight-hour shift."

4. Remind them of exposure limits
According to OSHA, the exposure limit for asbestos is 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter of air on an eight-hour shift. This exposure is also restricted to 1.0 f/cc for a 30-minute limit for asbestos. With the knowledge of exposure limits, employees are more likely to remove themselves from a situation if they feel they are overexposed to asbestos before they are at risk for experiencing negative health effects.