Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil and can be found in construction materials uncovered during renovation work, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training (also known as CPWR). Roofing and insulation materials, plaster, caulk, spray coatings, and pipe-wrapping products are among the items that may contain asbestos. Exposure to the fiber can increase a worker’s risk of developing lung disease, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, although it may take years for symptoms to develop.
Steps to take
CPWR recommends following three steps before beginning a work project:
- Ask your employer if the job you’re about to perform involves working with materials that may contain asbestos. If the answer is “yes,” your employer must provide asbestos training and personal protective equipment, as well as place warning signs noting a risk of exposure to asbestos. Also, your employer must take steps to ensure workers nearby and the public are safe from exposure.
- Protect yourself.
- Wear coveralls, head coverings, foot coverings, gloves and respirators.
- Refrain from smoking, eating or drinking in areas marked with a warning sign
- Shower before leaving the jobsite if you’ve performed asbestos-abatement work. Leave your work clothes and shoes at the jobsite – never bring them home to wash.
- Get trained. Three kinds of asbestos training are available:
- Awareness training is the most basic, and focuses on what workers should do if they come in contact with asbestos during cleaning and maintenance work.
- Special operations and maintenance training is designed for employees who repair known asbestos-containing material.
- Abatement worker training is an in-depth course for workers who not only remove asbestos, but who also come in direct contact with the substance.
For more information, visit epa.gov/asbestos.