If the contents are unknown, leave it alone
What should you do if you suspect asbestos?
Asbestos has been called the wonder mineral because of its unique heat resistant and corrosion resistant properties. These properties have made it invaluable in many applications especially for insulation and fire-proofing.
Asbestos is also unique because of its shape. It exists as a fiber. Unfortunately, its fibrous shape creates some unique health effects when inhaled, including a lung obstruction disease called asbestosis and a rare lung cancer called mesothelioma.
The risk of these health effects increases when exposures occur at higher concentrations of fibers and over longer periods of time. Personal factors, primarily smoking, also increase the risk.
Though new uses of asbestos have been banned, it can still be found in the refinery on older equipment and structures as well as older buildings in tiles, ceilings, walls, and on pipes.
Because the risk of asbestos-related health effects depends on the concentration and duration of exposure, the key to preventing health effects is to avoid any exposure to airborne fibers. This requires following the guidelines below.
- Treat all suspicious material as if it contains asbestos; a common use was pipe and equipment insulation, but other uses included mastic, floor tiles, and others.
- Do not disturb any material that may contain asbestos; fibers could be released when the material is disturbed.
- Never enterregulated areas set up due to the presence of asbestos, such as when there is asbestos abatement work.
- Lookfor asbestos containing materials in the work area; check for signage and pink paint. If it’s present, record this on your Job Safety Analysis which should be completed before work is started.
- If you suspect asbestos was disturbed, isolate the area and contact your supervisor.