Asbestos: A Ticking Time Bomb for Employees

You’ve heard all the talk about asbestos. You commonly hear about it being in the drywall in residential homes. But do you ever stop to think about how it got there or about the workers who were at risk for exposure when they were installing the stuff. In these cases, many of these workers were unaware that they are working with asbestos. Many times, the repercussions of the dangerous material doesn’t appear until years later.
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Asbestos is the name that has been given to a group of naturally occurring materials that are used in products like vehicle brakes and building materials. What these materials do is resist corrosion and heat. Asbestos includes amosite, chrysotile, tremolite asbestos, acticolite asbestos and anthophyllite asbestos. These materials have been chemically altered and treated with additional chemicals, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Our Asheville workers’ compensation attorneys understand that the inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause some serious diseases in the lungs and other vital organs. Many times, these diseases are not detected until years later. Most asbestos fibers are too small to be seen with the naked eye. If you’re a smoker, you’re at higher risks for developing asbestos-related diseases.

How much asbestos can be in a work area?

According to federal standards, worker exposure must not go over 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter of air over an 8-hour work day. When workers are exposed short-term, the levels can’t be more than 1 fiber per cubic centimeter for more than 30 minutes at a time. Oftentimes, employers will rotate employees in these conditions to get the work done faster. That’s not allowed!

What compliance methods must employers use to control asbestos exposure?

They are required to control exposure to or below the PELs using engineering controls and work practices to the extent feasible. Where these kinds of engineering controls and practices don’t do enough to make sure that workers are not overexposed, employers are required to reduce a worker’s exposures to the lowest levels that can be achieved and then make sure that they are using the respiratory protection to meet and go below the PELs.

Which employers are federally required to provide concerning medical examinations to at-risk workers?

Employers in the shipyard and the construction industry are required to provide medical exams to workers who, for 30 days or more a year, engage in Class I, II or III work or work in exposure levels exceeding a PEL. Make sure you’re getting the exams you need if you work in these conditions. Detection is key in preventing lifelong disabilities and even death.

Employers are required to make sure that all workers have the proper protective clothing. For all workers who are exposed to airborne concentrations of asbestos that exceed the federal limits, employers are required to provide and require that employees wear the proper protective clothing, like foot coverings, gloves, head covers and other full-body clothing. These workers are to be provided with vented goggles, face shields and other protective equipment where there is the possibility of eye irritation. Employers must also require that these workers wear this equipment.

If you, a coworker or a loved one has been injured at work, contact Lee Law Offices, P.A. for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:

Contest for New Technology to Inform Young Workers, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, October 22, 2012

OSHA Steps Up Training and Education Programs Nationwide, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, October 18, 2012

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