The Importance of Protecting Workers from Asbestos
There was a time in America when workers received little to no protection from asbestos. Some companies even went so far as to require employees to perform tasks requiring a tremendous level of exposure to the toxic material, all while hiding the known health risks of the mineral.
Fortunately, many changes have occurred over time. Brave workers and their families filed lawsuits that shone a light on wrongdoing and helped to even the playing field. As awareness increased, people also had more power to protect themselves. Additionally, lawmakers and governmental entities have taken important legal and regulatory steps designed to protect vulnerable workers. Finally, to be fair, there have always been conscientious employers focused on acting in the best interests of their employees.
However, even with these changes, dangers still exist. As surprising as it may be to some people, the United States has not entirely banned the use of asbestos. Plus, even in instances where its use has been restricted or eliminated, asbestos can still be present in old products and buildings. Thus, it remains important in many industries to protect workers from asbestos.
Below, we’ll discuss some ways to accomplish this goal.
Encourage Awareness and Training
Understanding a risk is essential to avoiding or mitigating it. Therefore, it is essential to properly train employees on the dangers of asbestos and how to deal with it. The type of training will vary by employee. For example, some employees may have limited contact with asbestos, but need to understand how to look out for it. Others may have much greater contact and will need a higher level of training. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require asbestos training in numerous circumstances.
Stay Away from Asbestos, If Possible
Perhaps the best way to address any type of danger is simply to avoid it. Thus, if possible, it’s best to just stay away from asbestos. But even if asbestos is present, its greatest danger is often not realized unless it is disturbed. When asbestos is disturbed, the particles become airborne and can be inhaled, which can lead to mesothelioma and other illnesses. Construction activities provide good examples - asbestos can be disturbed by cutting, drilling, sanding, sawing, hammering, demolition, and related activities.
Understand Asbestos Abatement
In some cases, there is no alternative except to deal with asbestos. Various methods and procedures exist to best deal with asbestos, some of which we have previously discussed in another blog post. Make sure your employees are trained in and fully understand asbestos abatement.
Continued Government Action
The government plays a key role in helping us to better understand the dangers of asbestos and to regulate its use. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), performs research and provides guidance and recommendations. The EPA and OSHA both play important roles in establishing rules and regulations for the protection of workers. The state of Oregon also plays an active role in educating people on the dangers of asbestos and regulates many instances of its use. Their continued involvement is essential.
Use Recommended PPE and Follow Guidelines
Rules and regulations only work if they are followed. Be sure to use all mandated personal safety equipment and clothing if you are required to work with asbestos. Additionally, follow all federal and local guidelines to ensure the safety of you or your employees.
Call with Questions
It is our hope that protections for workers will eventually make mesothelioma a concern of the past. Unfortunately, we’re not to that point yet. Even with safety precautions in place, there are many people becoming ill due to asbestos exposure from many years ago.
If you have questions about mesothelioma, asbestos, or asbestos laws and regulation in Oregon, we are here to answer them. The experienced mesothelioma lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have helped people all around Oregon for years. Contact us today.