Employees handling materials containing asbestos have a right to protection from the harmful diseases it causes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration established standards designed to reduce workers’ exposure to asbestos. Employers must follow OSHA’s standards and train their employees to work safely around the toxic substance.
As noted on OSHA.gov, employers in all industries must provide their workers with respiratory protection when needed. Depending on exposure levels, workers could require tight-fitting respirators defined as “powered air-purifying” under OSHA’s standards. Ventilated goggles, face shields and head or foot coverings may also prevent direct contact with asbestos fibers.
Monitoring and limiting employees’ exposure
OSHA standards require employers to monitor workspaces for airborne concentrations of asbestos. Employers must conduct regular samples of the air their employees breathe. After measuring exposure through a time-weighted average limit, employers cannot force workers to perform in areas that contain more than 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter during an eight-hour shift.
Employers owe a duty to inform their employees of their asbestos exposures. Workplace products must contain labels warning employees of asbestos and include safety sheets. Posted “Danger” signs may warn employees of asbestos exposure. Signs could also specify which protective gear to wear to reduce the risk of harm.
Taking steps to protect employees
As noted on the EPA.gov website, employers must take the necessary steps to protect their workers from asbestos exposure. Removing materials or demolishing structures containing asbestos may release airborne particles. The fibers could cling to employees’ skin or clothes and stay with them after their work shifts.
OSHA requires employers to track employees’ asbestos exposure times and limit them. Workers may need rooms to change out of their work clothes to prevent them from taking dangerous particles home. Employers may also need to install ventilation and systems to collect asbestos dust or fibers.