Asbestos is an umbrella term describing six natural fibrous materials, all of which are mined. For years, asbestos was praised as a miracle material due to its strength, flexibility, electrical resistance, and ability to withstand chemical and thermal degradation. In its heyday, asbestos was used in over 3,000 consumer products.
Today, we know the price people paid for asbestos use. The material produces microscopic airborne particles when handled which are easily breathed in and cause a range of health issues. Asbestos is still used in some vehicle parts and fireproof clothing, as well as certain construction materials (roofing tiles, corrugated sheeting, prefabricated cement, and other materials).
Employees are most likely to encounter asbestos in buildings constructed before 1980 during renovations, demolition, or repair work.
Asbestos and Health
Exposure to asbestos can cause a range of health complications in employees, including:
- Asbestosis (A chronic disease resulting from scar tissue in the lungs due to prolonged asbestos exposure).
- Lung cancer (Asbestos exposure also has links to ovarian, kidney, and esophageal cancers).
- Mesothelioma (A cancerous growth originating in asbestos-related scar tissue. Only seen in people exposed to asbestos).
- Pleural Effusion (Fluid between the lungs and the pleura – the membranes surrounding the lungs).
- Pleural plaques (Thickened areas on the pleural surface).
- Pleural Thickening (Scarring and thickening on the pleura).
What Products Contain Asbestos?
Asbestos can be found in a wide range of construction and electrical equipment, including floor tiles, insulation, plaster, cement, caulk, adhesives, roofing materials, siding, boilers, furnaces, generators, heating ducts, valves, pumps, wires and cables, and wiring insulation.
OSHA regulations require asbestos training for any employee exposed to or potentially exposed to asbestos fiber levels of 0.1 f/cc for an 8-hour time-weighted average or for 1.0 f/cc as a 30-minute time-weighted average.
Asbestos training comes in three levels: asbestos awareness training, special operations, and maintenance training, and abatement training.
Asbestos Awareness Training
Asbestos awareness training is required for all maintenance and custodial staff who work in areas where cleaning or minor maintenance may disturb asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Typically, asbestos awareness training covers such topics as:
- The history of asbestos use,
- The health effects of asbestos exposure,
- Identifying ACM damage or deterioration,
- Protective equipment and safe work practices,
- Decontamination and medical surveillance.
After asbestos awareness training, employees should understand the health risks caused by asbestos, be able to identify asbestos hazards, and know how to protect themselves and coworkers from asbestos exposure.
Special Operations and Maintenance Asbestos Training Courses
The second level of asbestos training courses, special O&M training is intended for employees whose responsibilities include general maintenance and minor ACM repair work. Minor repair work to ACMs includes tasks such as removing small amounts of asbestos-containing insulation or working in areas containing ACM debris. The course should include an overview of federal, state, and local asbestos regulations, proper means of handling and disposing of asbestos-containing materials, use of PPE including respirators, and hands-on exercises.
Abatement Worker Training
The most advanced asbestos training courses are intended for abatement workers who may come into direct contact with ACM. Employees involved in asbestos inspections or corrective action activities are also required to take abatement worker training.
Asbestos training courses at this level cover such topics as:
- Pre-asbestos abatement work activities,
- Work area preparation,
- Decontamination units,
- Personal protective equipment,
- Employee decontamination procedures,
- Safety issues,
- Proper handling and disposal of asbestos / asbestos-containing materials,
- Hands-on exercises.
Asbestos exposure causes long-term, chronic, and potentially fatal health complications. Providing your employees with asbestos training courses such as TPC's Asbestos Awareness Training helps protect them against what was once considered a miracle material.