Asbestos Safety

Asbestos is a widely used, mineral-based material that is resistant to heat and corrosive chemicals. Typically, asbestos appears as a whitish, fibrous material which may release fibers that range in texture from coarse to silky; however, airborne fibers that can cause health damage may be too small to see with the naked eye.

Asbestos is the name of a class of magnesium-silicate minerals that occur in fibrous form.

Asbestos Permissible Asbestos Exposure Limit:

Time-weighted average limit. The employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air as an eight (8)-hour time-weighted average (TWA) as determined by the method prescribed in the OSHA standard, or by an equivalent method.

Excursion limit. The employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 1.0 fiber per cubic centimeter of air (1 f/cc) as averaged over a sampling period of thirty (30) minutes as determined by the method prescribed in Appendix A to this section, or by an equivalent method.

Asbestos Permissible Asbestos Exposure Limit:

In general industry, employers must do initial monitoring for workers who may be exposed above the "action level" of 0.1 f/cc. Subsequent monitoring must be conducted at reasonable intervals, in no case longer than six months for employees exposed above the action level. In construction, daily monitoring must be continued until exposure drops below the action level (0.1 f/cc). Daily monitoring need not be done where employees are using supplied-air respirators operated in the positive pressure mode.

Methods of Compliance:

In both general industry and construction, employers must control exposures using engineering controls, to the extent feasible. Where engineering controls are not feasible to meet the exposure limit, respirators must be used to achieve compliance.

Asbestos Regulated Areas

In general industry and construction, regulated areas must be established where exposures exceed the 0.1 f/cc limit. Only authorized persons wearing appropriate respirators can enter a regulated area. In regulated areas, eating, smoking, drinking, chewing tobacco or gum, and applying cosmetics are prohibited.

Asbestos Health Hazards

Asbestos can cause disabling respiratory disease and various types of cancers if the fibers are inhaled. Inhaling or ingesting fibers from contaminated clothing or skin can also result in these diseases. The symptoms of these diseases generally do not appear for 20 or more years after initial exposure.

Asbestos are used in the manufacture of heat-resistant clothing, automotive brake and clutch linings, and a variety of building materials including floor tiles, roofing felts, ceiling tiles, asbestos-cement pipe and sheet, and fire-resistant drywall. Asbestos is also present in pipe and boiler insulation materials, and in sprayed-on materials located on beams, in crawlspaces, and between walls.

The potential for a product containing asbestos to release breathable fibers depends on its degree of friability. Friable means that the material can be crumbled with hand pressure and is therefore likely to emit fibers. The fibrous or fluffy sprayed-on materials used for fireproofing, insulation, or sound proofing are considered to be friable, and they readily release airborne fibers if disturbed. Materials such as vinyl-asbestos floor tile or roofing felts are considered nonfriable and generally do not emit airborne fibers unless subjected to sanding or sawing operations. Asbestos-cement pipe or sheet can emit airborne fibers if the materials are cut or sawed, or if they are broken during demolition operations.

What Are the Dangers of Asbestos Exposure?

Exposure to asbestos can cause asbestosis (scarring of the lungs resulting in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and to death); mesothelioma (cancer affecting the membranes lining the lungs and abdomen); lung cancer; and cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, and rectum.

What Asbestos Protections Are Mandatory?

The U.S. (OSHA) has issued revised regulations covering asbestos exposure in general industry and construction. Both standards set a maximum exposure limit and include provisions for engineering controls and respirators, protective clothing, exposure monitoring, warning signs, recordkeeping, and medical exams. Exposure to asbestos has been shown to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancer of the stomach and colon. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the thin membrane lining of the chest and abdomen. Symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, pain in the walls of the chest, and/or abdominal pain.

All materials in the members area for this topic index

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MS-WORD Asbestos Control Program Safety Program
(1)
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MS-WORD Asbestos Control Program Development
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MS-WORD 14 Health Asbestos Radon
MS-WORD Asbestos Safety Topic Fact Sheet

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MS-WORD Asbestos Safety Audit Guide

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MS-WORD Disturbing Asbestos Safety Article
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MS-WORD Asbestos Safety Training Handout
MS-WORD Asbestos Safety Training Handout
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MS-WORD Asbestos Information Pamphlet
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MS-PPT Asbestos In Construction PowerPoint
MS-PPT Asbestos Overview PowerPoint

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