How to Deal with Asbestos Exposure in your Workplace – Advice for Industrial Building Owners

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Courtesy of Intelex Technologies Inc.

Building owners play one of the primary roles in preventing asbestos exposure at the workplace. When constructing a building – or leasing out an existing facility that contains asbestos – building owners can take several steps that ensure safety on the premesis.

Only purchase asbestos-free building materials for renovations or new construction. Despite its known health hazards, asbestos materials are still being produced. In 2004, the United States used more than 3,000 metric tons of asbestos for roofing products, coatings and compounds and other industrial applications. Facility managers must specify that they want asbestos-free materials when placing or approving orders for building materials. Be sure to verify manufacturer’s certifications before making the purchase.

Schedule asbestos surveys for your properties. To best protect the workers in the building, owners must schedule a comprehensive building survey from a licensed asbestos abatement company. This survey will indicate where asbestos is present and which products need to be immediately addressed. As a facility owner, you should verify the conditions listed by the abatement company’s report. Also remember to schedule regular follow-up inspections every six months from the date of the original inspection.

Develop and implement an asbestos management program for each building. Owners must draft a thorough asbestos management plan that outlines their method of addressing asbestos-containing materials on their property. The policies should be as specific to the facility as possible, and should include information about:

  • Which items in your building contain asbestos
  • How you  will notify employees and building occupants of the asbestos
  • How you will train building occupants to avoid damaging asbestos-containing materials
  • How you plan to address asbestos emergencies in your building
  • Which work permits are necessary when asbestos in the building may be disturbed
  • Which work practices will be enforced to reduce the likelihood of asbestos exposure

Building owners may wish to hire a program development team to help construct the asbestos management plan. Maintenance and custodial staff, engineers, health and safety officials and industrial hygiene personnel can all contribute to the plan. Managers from the company that will occupy the building may also be involved.

Clearly label any materials in the building that you know contain asbestos. Asbestos-containing materials must be clearly labeled with warning signs. These signs should be placed on the materials themselves. Caution signs indicating the presence of asbestos should also be posted at the entrance for any area where asbestos products have been identified.

Provide your contact information to all the building residents. In the event that an asbestos-containing product in your building is disturbed, the occupants will need to contact you. Provide contact cards with your name, location, phone number and email address to the management of the company who occupies your building.

These steps can help reduce the likelihood that any industrial employees who work in or on your buildings are exposed to asbestos. In the event that an asbestos emergency arises in one of your properties, immediately contact OSHA at (800) 321-OSHA (6742).

This Intelex Guest Blog is the concluding post in a three-part series. Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

Customer comments

  1. By Angelo Garcia on

    An excellent article on handling asbestos in buildings. I would recommend bulk sampling of new building materials to confirm manufacturer's representation that the materials are asbestos free.

  2. By Paul Leavoy on

    That's a great point @Angelo Garcia and something worth adding to the asbestos checklist!

  3. By Joseph H. Guth PhD on

    The advice in this article is very good. But I only have one criticism that should be offered. Any asbestos-related determination and location services, such as an asbestos survey, bulk sample laboratory analyses, air sampling and analysis, or other activity that involves developing abatement and management documents and abatement monitoring must be performed by companies and individuals who are completely independent of the asbestos abatement contractor who will perform any asbestos abatement or mitigation. If not, a serious financial, legal and ethical conflict of interest will exist and more times than not, the quality of the work and the safety of all involved will be put at risk. Also be sure to verify the ownership of all such independent services since I've found a number of asbestos abatement companies owned by the same individuals or entities that were charged with uncovering the real hazards present and were responsible for their elimination. And the only way a building owner has to really assure themselves that they are getting the product they intend is to have their own independent asbestos consultant or Certified Industrial Hygienist with extensive asbestos training review the proposed work and work practices, monitor each step of the work as it is conducted, and certify at the end that all provisions and standards have been met.