It is a misconception that most or all asbestos has been eliminated from buildings. It might be surprising that asbestos has been found in buildings built in the 1990’s and later. Awareness of asbestos is important.
- Asbestos was used as a building component for its insulating and fireproofing characteristics.
- Asbestos can be found in vinyl flooring, roofing, insulation, popcorn ceilings, window and wallboard systems of older buildings and some not so old.
- Asbestos was used with the Wicked Witch of the West’s broom and fake snow in movies.
Problems With Asbestos
- Fibers are small enough to lodge in the lung cavities and surrounding organs by inhalation or ingestion.
- Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen, a substance that causes cancer. Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen. Mesothelioma has no known cure.
- Asbestos exposure may also increase the risk of asbestosis, an inflammatory condition affecting the lungs that can cause shortness of breath, coughing, permanent lung damage, and other nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders.
- Asbestos latency period is 10 to 30 years. An exposed worker to asbestos may have no adverse effects for 30 years.
Working With Asbestos
- Before any demolition or remodel activities are done, you are required to obtain a written asbestos statement from the building’s owner or owner’s agent. Older buildings are very suspect to asbestos as they may have hidden building materials due to remodels.
- If there is any accidental disturbance of asbestos containing material or suspect material, work must be stopped and an assessment made. Surveys can only be performed by a certified Asbestos Building Inspector.
Important note: If you are working in conditions where you may encounter asbestos, a two-hour awareness training is required. WAC 296-62-07722. This awareness training does not prepare someone to do any work with asbestos.
If you see unusual building materials, contact your supervisor. It may be asbestos. The more you involve yourself, the more you will be able to recognize asbestos.
- Pre-read the Toolbox Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
- Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Toolbox Talk relevant to your job site.
- Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion.
Questions for Discussion
- Do you know anyone who has been affected by asbestos?
- Have you found suspect materials on any of your job-sites?