Many people know that asbestos is dangerous, but don't really know what asbestos is or the extent of those dangers. This can be a problem for anyone who works in any commercial or production facility that may contain asbestos, as it can be good to have it removed if it's been discovered. Note some important information about asbestos and its removal so you know how to handle the situation if it's discovered in a building for which you're responsible or where you work.
1. What is asbestos?
Asbestos is not the same as fibreglass insulation, although the fibres may look similar. Asbestos is technically a bundle of minerals that bind together and create fibres that can be made into thin threads. These threads and have fibres have been used for insulating materials as well as a mixture for coatings that are used on auto parts and the like.
2. How dangerous is asbestos?
Asbestos is only dangerous when those fibres are inhaled; it's not dangerous when it's inert or mixed with other chemicals that keep it contained. However, when it is inhaled, asbestos may cause certain forms of cancer and especially forms of lung cancer. It can also cause breathing disorders that result from scarring and inflammation of the lung tissue.
3. Can a person work around asbestos?
In some cases, workers may be able to work in an area with asbestos if they are provided proper protective equipment. This might include respirators or other such heavy-duty breathing equipment, so they don't inhale asbestos fibres. However, it's also good to note that fibres can cling to clothing and shoes and be tracked into other areas, so workers might also need to be provided with disposal clothing when working in an area with asbestos.
4. Can workers force a business owner to have asbestos removed?
If workers in a building have concerns about asbestos in a building, there are usually legalities they can pursue to ensure they have a safe workplace. In America, OSHA oversees safe standards in workplaces, and in Australia, the Work Safe Act protects workers and their safety. Reporting your concerns can mean inspectors who visit the workplace to note the level of asbestos present, if any, and if workers are being protected with the right safety gear and equipment. They can then determine if the asbestos should be removed or contained, or if other action should be taken by the employer.