Mesothelioma Risks For Construction Workers
Asbestos may seem harmless, but for most people who are exposed, the effects don't come about until years after exposure. As a worker, your employer has an obligation to protect you from unreasonable hazards, and you have a responsibility to yourself and your family to take precautions.
Any building built before 1980 could have asbestos in the insulation, roof, walls, and insulation; buildings built after 1980 are usually safer, but they could still have asbestos in the roof or floors. If you don't know the details of construction of a building, you should assume that it does contain asbestos and take appropriate safety precautions. The owner of a building has a legal duty to make sure a building is safe for those who enter.
If you are working in an area that contains asbestos, your employer must pay for special training. The training will cover the dangers of asbestos and how to deal with it. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules dictate that a competent person must be present to answer worked questions about asbestos.
Workers who remove asbestos are supposed to use a respirator. The asbestos should also be kept wet to reduce the formation of dust. The work site should include a vacuum system to collect dust that might contain asbestos.
Be sure to protect your family members by not bringing your work clothing home. There have been cases where wives and children of construction workers got asbestos disease from fibers on the worker's clothes. Make sure your work clothes stay at work and are washed there, or disposed of as hazardous waste after use.
OSHA actually requires asbestos abatement workers to shower after work. And you should never eat, drink, or smoke in the asbestos work area. Wash your hands and face after working in the asbestos area.
One very simple and effective way to mitigate asbestos hazards at construction and other work sites is to keep it wet. Wet asbestos is much less likely to generate hazardous fibers. Both OSHA and the EPA require that asbestos be kept wet when major construction or deconstruction is going on in the building. Make sure your construction manager follows the rules for reducing asbestos exposure and issues respirators. Always use the respirator. It's a hassle, but it could save your life.