Several forms of asbestos-containing building materials were outlawed in the 1970s. The EPA then published a final rule limiting the use of asbestos in 1989, but the complete ban was reversed in court due to considerable industry lobbying efforts, and only a few specified
types of asbestos products, as well as any new applications of asbestos, were banned. In 1990, the EPA adopted a final rule requiring particular EPA certification for the use of discontinued asbestos products. Many individuals are unaware that asbestos-containing items are still available for purchase in the United States today.
Asbestos in the Workplace Is Dangerous
Asbestos material in good condition does not constitute a severe concern when left undisturbed. It only becomes an issue when it is destroyed, allowing microscopic fibres to be released into the air, potentially causing a range of respiratory ailments if breathed in.
There are an estimated 3.5 million buildings in the United States that contain asbestos. If you work in a commercial facility with asbestos, you are unlikely to be in immediate danger just by being there in perfect circumstances. The truth is that asbestos fibres are almost always present when entering an old business building; you just can’t see them. Unless asbestos is handled appropriately by certified or
licensed personnel, any type of renovation to a building will commonly stir up and damage asbestos. Even routine HVAC cleaning, floor buffing, and other routine maintenance activities can release microscopic asbestos fibres into the air.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stated that the best approach to avoiding asbestos exposure is to take the required precautions. What can you do instead if avoiding all buildings containing asbestos isn’t practicable or even possible?
How to Stay Safe in an Asbestos-Infested Building
When operating in an older commercial structure, as a business owner or facility manager, you can take a few precautions to protect yourself, your employees, and other inhabitants from asbestos hazards. Workers in such a building can take some of these actions, but the employer or company is responsible for providing reasonable protection from asbestos exposure.
As the owner of a business or commercial property, you should:
Understand the law: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other government agencies all have asbestos management laws and regulations. Certain of these rules differ, and in some situations, they may appear to be contradictory. Local and state regulations may be harsher than federal regulations in some areas.
Get your structure inspected: The first stage is to conduct a survey to determine the different types and locations of asbestos present, as well as the materials’ condition. Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) come with varying levels of risk. Non-friable ACM floor tiles, for example, pose a significantly lower danger than friable spray-on insulation or friable pipe insulation that is directly accessible to
inhabitants. Baseline ambient air testing may be necessary if friable ACM is present, and an operations and maintenance (O&M) schedule should be established to detail the activities required. Testing and inspections must be carried out by qualified, licenced specialists who are not affiliated with any abatement or remediation companies.
Personal protection equipment (PPE) and training should be provided: In this situation, you should talk to all of your impacted employees about asbestos safety, offer training courses on asbestos exposure, and, in some situations, make PPE available to workers. Respiratory protection may be required depending on the level of exposure as assessed by personal exposure monitoring. This would normally apply
to your janitorial and maintenance employees, as well as any other personnel working on construction or asbestos remediation. PPE or respirators would not be required for the average office worker or building resident.
Asbestos abatement strategy: Finally, you must consider how to eliminate asbestos from your commercial structure. Even though working within the property is now declared safe, it is only a matter of time before renovations or damage release harmful asbestos fibres into the air. There is no legal duty to remove asbestos from a structure unless it is being renovated or demolished, or if the asbestos is damaged and poses a greater immediate danger of exposure.
When it’s time to start abatement work, you should hire a competent industrial hygiene firm to create asbestos abatement standards that can be used to compare apples-to-apples bids from qualified abatement contractors.
What is Commercial Building Asbestos Abatement?
The four most common asbestos abatement strategies are:
Encapsulation refers to the use of special materials as a sealant over asbestos to help prevent the discharge of fibres.
This usually refers to patching or other forms of asbestos repair, such as putting protective wrap or covering over asbestos insulation materials to help prevent further damage and fibre release. In some circumstances, encapsulation is also a type of repair.
Enclosure is frequently utilised during restorations, for example, to entirely enclose asbestos pipe insulation behind new solid wall partitions or mechanical trenches.
Removal: In some cases, the only way to ensure that no one is exposed to asbestos is to have it completely removed by a licensed asbestos removal contractor. This is often the case during demolition or when the asbestos has been severely damaged.