Why is asbestos so dangerous? Can they cause disease? And how do you protect your workers from the harmful health risks caused by exposure? Find out all this and more in the article below. Breath easier with checklists and templates when you conduct an asbestos building inspection.
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The naturally occurring mineral group asbestos is a substance hazardous to human health. It’s a type of silicate mineral that formed from volcanic, serpentine rock hundreds of thousands of years ago. Fibers several centimeters long bundled together to form veins, which were subsequently deposited in the upper layers of the earth. Because of its resilience and abundance, it was readily used in the construction industry, unbeknownst to the builders and occupants that these fibers could take a dangerous toll on their health.
The asbestos inspection checklist does not replace asbestos testing which must always be done via an indoor air and material test. However, an asbestos inspection checklist increases the accuracy of the test. In this way, inspectors can be sure all steps were checked off and documented before they sign off on any proceedings. In addition to being used during inspections, an asbestos checklist can be used in risk assessment for the handling and disposal of hazardous materials. Furthermore, asbestos safety briefings are also conducted with a checklist on construction sites.
Employers must take all possible precautions to ensure protection from asbestos in the workplace. The following 3 steps can provide guidance to adequately protect workers from the occupational asbestos health hazards:
When asbestos dust or fibers enter the air, they can get into the lungs through the respiratory tract. The approximately bacteria-sized fibers can’t be completely broken down or blocked by the lung’s defensive system through cellular removal by macrophages or proteins. Of course, the lungs have mechanical defenses, such as coughing, that can expel some of these fibers, but many get past the avoidance reaction and stuck in the lining of the lungs. As of now, medical technology is not yet sophisticated enough to treat those who have suffered from exposure. Depending on how much is absorbed, diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, abdominal cancer, pleural cancer, and pleural effusions, and plaques can occur.
Employers are required by law to inspect the workplace for health risks and inform as well as protect employees against them whenever possible. Therefore, it is advisable for companies that suspect possible contamination to carry out asbestos testing. In the construction and real estate industry, it is common practice to conduct asbestos building inspections prior to sales, renovation, or repair work if the buildings were constructed or modernized between 1950 and 1990. Inspectors should be aware that asbestos, as well as different varieties of asbestos, were used differently during certain periods.
There are different test methods that can be used to detect asbestos. They should be part of an asbestos risk assessment. Since the signs of asbestos most often go unnoticed by laymen, an asbestos test should be performed for absolute certainty. There are two types of tests: the material test and the room air test. Kits for both tests are available from specialized suppliers. Usually, such a kit contains a sample tube for collection, step-by-step instructions, a data entry sheet, and a labeled box to send the samples in for analysis. The cost depends on the type of test and the detail of analysis required.
For the room air analysis, use the tube to collect a dust sample from the room where you suspect asbestos is present. Complete the enclosed data entry form in full. Then, send the sample and document by mail to the specialist laboratory indicated on the label. The laboratory will then analyze the dust for harmful substances. You will receive the test report within 5 to 10 working days by mail or for download via the laboratory's website.
For the material test, you put a small piece of the building material you suspect contains asbestos into the collection tube. Again, you record everything in the data entry form and send the document and sample to the lab. The asbestos analysis with solids also takes 5 to 10 business days.
Keep in mind that the material sample sent in for testing may not be harmless. Dangerous asbestos fibers could potentially be released during their collection and handling. Because it may be necessary for you to process the affected building material to take the sample, it is recommended that such a test is carried out by a specialist. A professional will have the necessary knowledge, expertise, and PPE to handle the sample without exposing himself or others to the harmful fibers. A dust sample test is much less dangerous, but it does not provide information about where the asbestos fibers come from.
Employers and safety officers must implement and enforce occupational health and safety measures to minimize the risks of asbestos exposure. Proactively conducting an asbestos risk assessment when necessary requires a great deal of effort and documentation.
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