Guidelines When Working with Asbestos and Facts About Licensing and Training

The mining of asbestos in the US has been completely banned. This is in lieu of the 1989 Toxic Substances Control Act. According to this law, no one is allowed to exploit asbestos for any private or commercial purposes. In any case that the use of asbestos is necessary, it should not exceed the limit provided by the government. The EPA (Environmental Protection Association) is the agency authorized by the US government to regulate and oversee companies and other entities that are working with asbestos. Mismanagement or any violations of the Act 1989 may actually lead to legal charges.

Nonetheless, the said act has not totally banned the use of products containing asbestos. In the America, there are still thousands of homes, buildings, and infrastructures that were built using construction materials containing asbestos. Of course, the government cannot just order a mass demolition of these properties.

But in constructing new buildings, both the federal and state authorities are strict in inspecting materials used. Moreover, consumers can always seek professional help in removing asbestos from their homes.

Who are the people working with asbestos?


Asbestos is an essential mineral that is mainly used in building constructions. Since it makes a material defiant to heat, it is widely used in making insulations, pipes, cements, flooring tiles, ceilings, walls, and many more. It is even used in making suits used by firemen. Though the use of asbestos is strictly prohibited, there are still industries that are in need of this mineral. Also, there are companies that offer services in removing asbestos from residential and commercial buildings. They are also called Asbestos Abatement Professionals.

Working with Asbestos – General Guidelines in the Workplace 

The Control of Asbestos Regulations provides the guidelines that different companies and private individuals should follow when working with asbestos. It is a comprehensive compilation of the previous policies that were made in regulating the exploitation of asbestos minerals. The Control of Asbestos Regulations came into existence on November 13, 2006 and is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

 

working with asbestos fibresWhat does this regulation say? 

Prohibition on the importation, supply, and utilizations of asbestos 

First, the Regulations provides for the prohibition of the supply, importation, and utilization of all forms of asbestos. There are four general types of asbestos (brown, white, black, and blue). In year 1985, the use of blue and brown asbestos was completely banned and in 1999, white asbestos was also blacklisted.

Licensing  

The Regulations also require all companies and individuals who are working with asbestos to apply for licensing. They include the asbestos removal contractors, laboratory/testing centers, and all other factories that necessitate asbestos in producing products. Unless they have passed the qualifications and obtained a valid license, they will not be able to work with asbestos.

Employment of safety measures in the workplace  

In the workplace, business owners should see to it that their employees do not get exposed to the chemical. This includes not disturbing the materials that contain asbestos and using appropriate gears and tools including the respiratory equipment, facemask either half or full. They also need to provide their employees with the appropriate suits (closed shoes, jumpsuits, hats, etc.) and any protective covering that will protect them from incidental exposure to asbestos.

Prohibition in Disturbing or Distorting Asbestos-containing materials 

Workers are not allowed to drill, break, sand, or distort materials or products that contain asbestos. Neither should they shovel it while dry. Asbestos fibers can be released through the dust and can be inhaled by the worker. When dealing with big cleanups, workers should not use regular vacuum cleaners. Instead, they have to use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA).

Control Limit of Asbestos Exposure 

However, there are times that disturbing the material is necessary to complete the job. In this case, the worker may do so provided that his/her exposure to asbestos does not exceed the control limit, which is 0.1 fibers per cubic meter in an interval of 30 minutes. This is the average airborne exposure limit and it will not affect the worker’s health. Exceeding this control limit may lead to the cancellation of the employer’s license to operate.

Securing the Workplace 

The workplace should be so constructed in a way that the asbestos fiber would be contained in case of exposure. The doors and windows should be closed and the working area should be properly maintained and sanitized. When working with asbestos, it is necessary that the cooling system or heaters be turned off so the fibers that are released in the air will not spread throughout the area.

Proper Disposal  

Disposal of asbestos wastes should also be done properly. The materials that contain asbestos should be taken from the working area immediately. However, the workers must place such asbestos wastes inside a sealed plastic bag or wet container. Then, it should be labeled as hazardous or asbestos waste.

Asbestos Training 

Employers should make sure that their workers undergo necessary trainings before working with asbestos. The training should be properly designed to prepare the workers in their individual tasks. Contractors who work as electricians, plumbers, plasterers, roofers, gas and shop fitters, heating engineers, insulation installers, maintenance contractors, and of course the construction workers are required to undergo asbestos training. There are so many other professions that require the same trainings. So long as they can be exposed to asbestos, they need to learn the right ways on dealing with the chemical as well as the safety precautions.

 
What are included in the training? Everything about asbestos – from the basic information down to its disposal is taught during the entire training program. Workers will be educated on the terrible effects that they may get from working with asbestos, the types of asbestos, and how to identify them. The trainees will also be taught on how what to do in case an accidental exposure takes place. Most importantly, they will be informed of the laws that guarantee their rights in case they develop a fatal disease from their profession.

Training courses are offered by various companies. The competence and experience of trainers are highly essential to ensure that workers will easily learn all about asbestos and how to deal with it. HSE is continuously coordinating with asbestos training providers and they help contractors, employers, and independent service providers look for training institutions. Aside from the actual training programs, the agency also encourages workers to avail of e-learning or web-based asbestos training. For those who don’t have the time to attend regular training sessions, they can just go online anytime and learn more about working with asbestos.

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