Dangers of Asbestos

Dangers of Asbestos

August 10, 2023

Knowing the dangers associated with Asbestos is one of the many ways to prevent potential injury or illness in the workplace. Asbestos is a combination of minerals that can be used to make products stronger, and longer lasting. It is often found in construction materials including, but not limited to, paint, installation, roof shingles, and other contaminated materials that pose a risk to our health and well-being if not properly dealt with.

By law, employers are required to keep their workers safe from all potential hazards and exposure related to asbestos, as outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Working Safely with Asbestos

Asbestos, when not dealt with properly, can pose serious short and long-term illnesses, such as shortness of breath or lung cancer. There are several preventative safety measures that workers must ensure are in place when working with hazardous materials including:

  1. Substitution of Hazardous Material
    Finding a substitution for dangerous materials is typically the first step companies will take in ensuring their workers’ health and safety is protected.  In many situations, it is difficult to completely eliminate Asbestos; however, there may be alternative materials that can be used in the removal of specific hazardous materials. Alternatives such as natural materials, or fiberglass may be used as a replacement for Asbestos while providing a similar function. The functions and materials may vary, but using alternative mineral fibers may reduce the risk of illness on job sites, as well as any long-term effects it may have on workers.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that their workers are properly trained on the use, maintenance, and storage of the PPE required for their job duties. With the proper PPE, a worker’s risk and exposure to hazardous materials is significantly decreased. Protective equipment such as face masks, face shields, eye masks, and gloves, can protect workers who may be required to work closely and hands-on with hazardous materials including Asbestos. Ensuring the PPE is both appropriate and well-fitted to each worker helps to reduce a worker’s risk of potential injury or illness.
  3. Proper Signage
    With the proper safety signage on site, workers, including those not working closely with asbestos, can be made aware of potential hazards associated with Asbestos. Signage including “Danger Due To Asbestos,” “Warning – PPE Required At All Times,” or “Caution – Asbestos Dust Materials Present” may signal to workers that there is a present risk of asbestos and warn them about the dangers of

Potential Risks and Illness Related to Asbestos Exposure

Even with proper care and maintenance of Asbestos, workers may still be at risk of potential illness or injury when closely working with hazardous chemicals. Inhaling small asbestos fibers may lead to the following side effects:

  • Lung cancer
  • Shortness of breath
  • Asbestosis
  • Cough
  • Difficulties breathing

Key Takeaways

If there is no way of eliminating the use of asbestos in the workplace, using the proper personal protective equipment as well as developing safer work methods with signage, helps to ensure that the safety of all workers and the public is being cared for.

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