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The Lowdown on Asbestos in the Workplace

Asbestos has been banned from use since 1990 due to the many health risks that it was discovered to cause. However, it is still a dangerous substance that yet exists in a number of old yet still utilized homes and buildings today. While it is no longer an active ingredient in household and construction products, the risk for exposure to this harmful substance still exists not only in homes, but also in workplaces.


But what exactly do we need to know about asbestos in the workplace?


1. History of use


Asbestos was widely used in a lot of construction and household products a few decades back – and with good reason. Asbestos fibers are strong and durable, and proven to be resistant to heat and fire, making them good substances for many a building products. It’s a fact well demonstrated by the presence of asbestos in many homes and buildings that were built between the 1950’s to the late 1980’s.


2. Hidden hazards


Asbestos fibers are so tiny that they can pass quite easily into the lungs and stay there for many years before manifesting itself through health threats and diseases that have no known cure. And though it has been decades since it was ruled out of use in modern household and construction products, the risks for exposure to this deadly substance is still around in both the home and the workplace. Studies of people who worked closely with and were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards have shown that breathing in high levels of the mineral fibers could lead to an increased risk of developing asbestosis and mesothelioma (a type of lesser-known cancer).


3. Common hiding places


Asbestos is no longer commonly found in the products and building materials of today, and if they were used then the manufacturing company is required to state it on labels. However, there are still buildings and workplaces today that were constructed before 1990 and which made use of products that contained asbestos. Steam pipes, furnace ducts, cement roofing and shingles, sidings, floor tiles, and wallpapers are just some of the common products that might have made use of asbestos in the past.


4. Preventing asbestos exposure


Asbestos is certainly a dangerous mineral, however, it is equally important to note that just because a building material or product contains it, it doesn’t mean that it automatically puts people at risk for exposure to it. Preventing asbestos exposure in the workplace is made easier by policies and procedures that are put in place to do just that. Employers are required to ensure their workers’ health and safety while doing assigned tasks within the workplace. On the other hand, it is an employee’s job to ensure that he is aware of the right information available to him, uses the proper equipment provided when handling products containing the mineral, and attend asbestos safety trainings and certifications in order to know what to do when the risk for exposure arises.


Knowing what one is dealing with makes preparing for it a lot easier. And with the right information, policies, and training, the hazards of asbestos in the workplace can be avoided more successfully.