Even though asbestos was largely phased out as a building material in the 1970s and 80s, it is still used in certain industries. Many industrial and commercial buildings contain the material, and it can still be found in certain automotive parts and in other products. This means that it’s still very possible to be exposed to asbestos at work if you’re employed in a factory setting or in the automotive industry. Even those who work in construction can be exposed to asbestos if they are renovating a home that was built prior to the 1980s.
The dangers of asbestos are well-known by now, but there are things that you can deal with asbestos exposure in the workplace. Here are just a few to keep in mind.
Work in a Well-Ventilated Area
Exposure to asbestos dust is always dangerous, but the problem becomes particularly severe if there isn’t proper ventilation. This is often the case on ships or in ship-building facilities where it may be difficult to provide adequate ventilation. The dust builds up over time, and anyone working in the area becomes more likely to inhale asbestos fibers.
If you manage a workplace that deals with asbestos in any capacity, you need to ensure that your HVAC system will be able to handle large amounts of asbestos dust. There are systems that are specifically designed for this purpose, so have one installed and make sure that it receives regular maintenance.
Isolate Problem Areas
If the asbestos in your workplace is limited to certain areas, keep those areas isolated as much as possible. Place warning signs wherever necessary, and keep doors and windows leading to the areas closed. You can also install special HVAC systems with separate exhaust ducts that will prevent contaminated air from traveling to other sections of a building.
Limit Time Spent in Problem Areas
When you must work in an area containing asbestos, try to limit the amount of time spent there. Most people who are exposed to asbestos never develop long-term health issues, so limiting your exposure could be enough to keep you safe.
Wear Protective Equipment
When you work around asbestos, protective equipment is a must. Respirators will protect your lungs from exposure, while coveralls will keep asbestos dust off your clothes. These coveralls
should cover everything, from your clothing to your boots. Naturally, they should be removed and stored properly to keep others from being exposed to asbestos.
Practice Proper Hygiene
One of the more insidious things about asbestos is that it can travel easily from one location to the next. A worker who is exposed to asbestos can get the dust on their clothes and spread it to coworkers or even their own family if they aren’t careful. If you are exposed to asbestos at work, be sure to shower and wash your hands thoroughly to get rid of any dust. Exposed clothing should be kept separate from other laundry and washed immediately.
Speak With Your Doctor
No matter what you do, asbestos exposure is all but inevitable when you work in certain industries. Even though you’ll likely be safe if you’re only exposed occasionally, you should still make an appointment with your primary doctor if you’ve spent any amount of time around asbestos. It can take years after asbestos exposure for illnesses such as mesothelioma to develop, so speak to your doctor about monitoring yourself for any symptoms.
Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers cannot be cured, but their progress can be slowed down with proper treatment. As with most conditions, it’s much easier to treat these illnesses when you can catch them in their earliest stages.
Even though asbestos isn’t as widely used as it once was, it hasn’t been entirely banned in the United States. If you work in a factory setting or in the automotive or shipbuilding industries, you can still be exposed to it. Keep these tips in mind if you work in such an industry, and keep a close eye on your health. Occasional exposure to asbestos may not lead to any serious problems, but it’s always best to avoid any kind of exposure if you can.
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