Last month, we wrote about the health risks associated with asbestos exposure and how employers & property owners need to keep employees and contractors safe. (See May post here.) This article is meant to go a bit more in-depth into reducing the risk of asbestos exposure for employees and contractors at potentially hazardous job sites.

Asbestos Exposure Risks at Work

There are too many professions to list when it comes to potential asbestos exposure–anyone working in an old building or facility could potentially be at risk. Some jobs, however, have a larger risk of exposure when it comes to asbestos. These jobs include things like:

  • Demolition
  • Renovation
  • Painting
  • Carpentry
  • Electricity
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Home/building Inspection
  • Industrial real estate

The common theme in these jobs is the fact that they can concern older buildings, which have a much higher chance of exposure to asbestos containing materials (ACM). Any building or home built prior to 1980 has a much higher risk of containing ACM, as regulations were not in place at the time.

Jobs that are removing or renovating old rooms or infrastructure are especially at risk, as ACM may inadvertently become airborne. Proper safety precautions are a must when working at any site that may increase the risk of asbestos exposure.

Keeping Workers Safe from Asbestos Exposure

There are many things employers, employees, and contractors alike can do to mitigate exposure to asbestos and ACM.

Steps for Employees to Mitigate Potential Asbestos Exposure

  • Make sure a proper inspection has been conducted on any worksite. Eliminating the possibility of asbestos exposure before it may happen is the best way to keep workers safe.
  • Wear proper protective equipment. Licensed inspectors don’t miss things often but mistakes happen. Work on high-risk buildings and properties should be conducted with proper safety equipment to reduce asbestos exposure (along with other potential hazards).
  • Use respirators on jobs with lots of airborne particles. This may seem like common knowledge, but respirators are necessary to help filter out any hazardous materials a worker may be exposed to.

On top of using safety gear and making sure inspections are up to date, employers and property owners can take a couple of steps to keep employees safe on job sites.

Steps for Employers & Property Owners to Mitigate Potential Asbestos Exposure

  • Controlling the work site. Employers and property owners should be sure to have policies & procedures in place at any site. Mapping everything out allows employees and contractors to know where to go and who to talk to if any potentially hazardous situations arise.
  • Having a plan for asbestos exposure. Employers and property owners need to have a plan of action if discovery of or exposure to asbestos occurs. A good plan will include evacuation procedures followed by instructions for employees and the proper channels to contact going forward.

Remember, if asbestos is discovered at any worksite, work should be halted immediately and a licensed asbestos professional will need to be contacted. Never think that a building will be free of asbestos or ACM–even new buildings may be renovated older buildings or built on an old foundation. Keeping these safety procedures in mind will lead to a much lower risk of asbestos exposure for employees and contractors.

Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources

For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos information, remediation, or removal check the resources below:

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