According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as many as 1.3 million people in the United States go to the workplace every day where they are exposed to significant amounts of asbestos. Even though asbestos was largely banned in the US in the 1970s and 1980s, it can still be found in older homes and buildings as it was used as insulation in many cases since it was fire-resistant.
Asbestos kills between 12,000-15,000 people per year in the United States. This number of annual deaths has held steady for more than a decade because asbestos-related diseases may not strike victims for decades after they are exposed. It is estimated this number may be conservative because many deaths for such things as lung cancer are not listed as being from asbestos exposure.
What is asbestos?
According to OSHA, asbestos is a name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. It has been used in over 3000 products, including insulations for pipes, fireproofing, floor tiles, various building materials, and in vehicle brakes and clutches. Nowadays, most exposures occur in the construction industry and in ship repair during renovations, repairs and demolitions as the removal of asbestos materials releases asbestos fibers into the air, which are then inhaled. These fibers are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Limiting workplace exposure
OSHA has specific standards for addressing asbestos hazards and worker exposure. These standards reduce the risk to workers by requiring employers to provide personal exposure monitoring to assess the risk, along with hazard awareness training. If asbestos is present or believed to be present, employers are required to ensure exposure is reduced by using administrative controls and provide personal protective equipment, including respiratory equipment and protective clothing. Even though there really is no ‘safe’ level of asbestos exposure, OSHA regulations do define the amount of asbestos exposure that is still permissible in the workplace. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) is being exposed to a time-weighted average of 0.1 fibers of asbestos per cubic centimeter of air over an 8-hour workday and an excursion level of 1.0 fiber of asbestos per cubic centimeter of air in any 30 minute period. These are the maximum workplace exposure levels that are permissible without personal protective gear.
Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. can help keep your employees and visitors safe by assisting you in properly managing the asbestos-containing material (ACM) in your facility. We offer the following asbestos services: building surveys, operations and maintenance programs, air monitoring and exposure assessments, abatement design and specification authoring, and AutoCAD© drawings showing the amount and distribution of ACM, data management software, and employee training. We are ready to serve you – give us a call at 317-253-9737.