Asbestos – the word that strikes fear in the heart of workers worldwide. But what exactly is this material? Unless you know about this material, it will probably escape under the radar and not worry you at all for 20-30 years before you start seeing symptoms of an asbestos-related illness.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in soil and rock. It has worked well for various industries in the past for numerous reasons. For instance, it is resistant to heat, chemicals and has different insulation properties.
That’s why asbestos was utilized for many decades to develop automotive parts, textiles, and construction materials.
Other items that contain this mineral include roofing shingles, siding on houses, blankets that protect hot water pipes, insulation in walls and attics, vinyl tiles used for floors, heat resistant coverings, car brakes, etc.
There is no doubt that workers in a construction or manufacturing company will be at a higher risk of asbestos exposure than others because they work around asbestos or asbestos-containing materials like fireproofing, gaskets, and insulation.
Prolonged asbestos exposure causes asbestosis and mesothelioma, a terminal disease that forms a tumor in the protective lining of the lungs or abdomen.
So how do you prevent and protect yourself from asbestos-related diseases? Click here or read on to know more.
Know about the location of asbestos at your workplace.
To prevent asbestos exposure at the workplace, it would be helpful to be aware of the locations and areas with high material concentration.
However, if you’re working in construction or maintenance, assume it’s everywhere and take precautions. It can be challenging to identify its presence in ceiling tiles or floors through visual inspection.
So, your best bet would be to keep your distance, wear gloves, masks, and PPE to keep yourself safe from inhaling smoke or fumes.
Why is it dangerous to inhale smoke or fumes in such environments? Because asbestos fibers present in the air can enter your system without you knowing.
Always wear a respirator around asbestos.
One of the best and easiest ways of preventing asbestos exposure is wearing a respirator around known materials.
While some workers think using a handkerchief for your nose and mouth is sufficient, it won’t work for microscopic fibers.
So, your best bet would be to wear a mask specifically designed to block out asbestos particles.
Get in touch with your employer and ask them about workplace risks.
When you’re working around asbestos daily due to the nature of your work, it pays to be well-informed. First, however, ask your employer if they’re aware of this material and the threat it poses to others.
Moreover, staying well-informed and proactive when handling asbestos are two of the most critical steps in exposure prevention. Be aware of materials you work with that might contain traces of asbestos.
Take all the precautions necessary to prevent asbestos poisoning or any such illnesses by using approved protective equipment, even if your employer refuses to provide it.
Get rid of asbestos-containing materials properly.
Only qualified, well-trained professionals should handle asbestos and abide by proper removal techniques to ensure adequate safety during removal.
In addition, workers must prioritize their safety and take preventive measures when working around asbestos or asbestos-containing substances.
Environmental Protection Agency’s website provides tips and information regarding proper asbestos removal methods.
Remain aware of contaminated clothes.
Workers can carry toxic asbestos particles from work to their homes through hair, clothing, or shoes, putting their families at risk of secondhand asbestos exposure.
Workers should consider cleaning contaminated clothing in a controlled environment to avoid exposing their families to asbestos fibers.
Moreover, they should also consider changing clothes before returning home from work. When you get home, the cleaner you are, the lower are your family’s chances of absorbing or inhaling microscopic asbestos particles.
Undergo regular check-ups and cancer screenings.
A disease like mesothelioma is terminal, but some asbestos-related illnesses are treatable if detected early.
So, if you handle asbestos daily, consider getting annual cancer screenings and regular health check-ups.
For instance, pleural mesothelioma has a 20 – 30 year latency period. So, share your exposure history with your primary care physician, as most asbestos-related diseases have similar symptoms as other illnesses like pneumonia or flu.
A few common symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, dry cough, chest tightness, etc. Get in touch with your primary care physician immediately if you have a history of asbestos exposure in the past.
Workers must prioritize their health and wellbeing at the workplace at all costs. But that doesn’t mean that employers can avoid fulfilling their responsibilities for keeping their workers safe.
Keeping workplaces safe doesn’t require much effort; it is about assuming responsibility. Employers should realize that healthier employees are way more productive than those who aren’t.