Asbestos Risks In The Workplace

May 19, 2015

As an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure that your employees have a safe environment to work in, one that doesn't put their health at risk. Quite often, this responsibility involves asbestos removal and abatement, a process that requires specialized services and strategies. If you suspect your workplace might be at risk, you have the option to contact a risk solutions company that can assist in developing safe work practices for handling asbestos as well as strategies for its removal or abatement.

Taking the proper precautions minimizes, or eliminates, the risk of asbestos exposure. It can put your mind at ease, knowing that you have complied with current regulations regarding this dangerous substance.

Why Remove Asbestos from the Workplace?

Exposure to asbestos places an individual at risk of developing one of four diseases: mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and pleural thickening. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that affects the lining of the abdominal cavity or lungs. Asbestosis results from prolonged exposure and causes lung scarring that makes it difficult to breathe. Lung cancer can develop after exposure to asbestos has occurred. Pleural thickening causes swelling and thickening of the lining in the lungs, leading to breathing difficulties.

Where Is Asbestos Found?

White, brown, and blue asbestos has been used in commercial workplaces for years. It is found in heat insulation products, spray coatings used on steel, joint compounds, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, asbestos cement, and asbestos cement pipes. Asbestos can show up almost anywhere within your building, making it necessary to bring in a team of qualified professionals to conduct an assessment.

Getting an Inventory of the Asbestos-containing Areas of Your Workplace

The first practical step is to create a list of all areas of the workplace that are affected. In most cases, you will need someone who is knowledgeable about the use of asbestos in construction and other areas of business to assist you in putting this inventory together.

Setting Up Your Asbestos Management Program

Your asbestos management program needs to be multi-faceted so that it deals with all areas of concern. It should include the inventory of materials/structural components containing asbestos, a method to label them, an emergency response plan, a strategy for reassessing your building at a later date. You should include an educational training program for your employees to assist you in minimizing the risk of exposure.

What Options Do You Have for Safe Handling, Removal, and Abatement of Asbestos?

Several options are available that can assist you in handling asbestos safely. They include full removal, encapsulation, encasement, the use of HEPA filters, and high-risk work strategies.

Since you cannot complete asbestos removal safely without the proper equipment, it is necessary to bring in a team of experienced professional who can do so for you. In some instances, you might need to combine asbestos removal with one of the other options you have to contain it.

Encapsulation involves treating the component that contains asbestos with a special product. This formula penetrates deeply into the component, preventing the release of asbestos fibers.

Encasement involves the use of materials to isolate the structures/materials containing asbestos fibres behind a physical barrier. It is also used to provide isolation for designated work areas in which asbestos-containing materials are handled. Plywood, gypsum board, and metal sheeting are typically used to build a barrier that is effective in preventing the release of fibres into other areas of the building.

A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can be used to collect aerosol particles of asbestos in the work place. WorkSafe BC requires the filter to be at least 99.97% efficient.

Work strategies are designed to assist in preventing exposure to airborne asbestos fibres. This strategy varies from one workplace to another and is usually determined with the assistance of a professional team of individuals who are trained in asbestos abatement and removal. Low-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk strategies can involve personal protective equipment, specific methods of performing tasks, and the use of specialized equipment.

Who Should Remove Asbestos from Your Workplace?

Due to the inherent danger of asbestos, only licensed asbestos removal contractors should assist you in removing or abating asbestos in your workplace. Before you start, you might want to consult a risks solutions company to help you identify problematic issues and design strategies to manage them efficaciously.

Getting Assistance

Consulting a risk solutions company to assist you in handling the asbestos situation in your workplace properly and safely is the simplest way to get the task done. Risk solution analysts assess the workplace and provide the analytics and data your company needs to properly evaluate the risks involved. They can help you to manage these risks, while assisting your company in developing strategies to address the asbestos situation in your building.

As a result, your company can feel confident that you've made the right choices to handle the asbestos in your workplace safely and as thoroughly as possible.

About Craig Yee - Occupational Health and Safety Consultant in Vancouver

Craig Yee is an Industrial Hygienist and Principal of OHS Global Risk Solutions. He earned his Masters Degree in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene at the University of British Columbia. He has over 12 years of direct experience in the hygiene, health and safety industry in both public and private sectors. You can connect with him on Google+.

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