If you are an employer seeking to prevent mesothelioma-related lawsuits or a worker seeking compensation, you aren’t alone. Mesothelioma is a cancer that usually results from asbestos exposure. Many of these exposures happen in the workplace.
Asbestosis has become a well-known problem in recent years. Litigation related to mesothelioma has also become common. Attorneys are currently working on many asbestos-related cancer cases.
Following federal guidelines to reduce asbestos exposure
To help prevent health hazards and avoid legal issues, follow federal guidelines to reduce workers’ exposure to asbestos. These guidelines are available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website1 and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)’s guide to asbestos safety.2
The asbestos safety guide identifies four main sources of asbestos exposure:
- Skin contact
- Eye contact
The following steps can help ensure worker safety:
- Prevent skin and eye contact with asbestos
- Wash skin daily with soap and water
- Change clothing daily
- Irrigate eyes immediately upon exposure
- Seek out fresh air when needed
An employer should provide one of several types of respirators for workers, depending on environmental conditions. For specifics on choosing a respirator2 and selecting a filter,3 consult the NIOSH guide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)4 recommends using respirators approved by NIOSH or the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Federal regulations set conservative limits on exposure to asbestos fibers to prevent cancers such as mesothelioma.5 For asbestos fibers longer than 5 micrometers, the limit is 100,000 fibers per cubic meter of air; this is equal to 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air. To ensure compliance, employers should test in accordance with Analytical Method #7400, which involves collecting a 400-liter air sample over 100 minutes.
Table 2 in the CDC instruction sheet lists protective measures for workers to use when removing asbestos, demolishing buildings or manufacturing products that contain asbestos. These measures often include enclosing the area, using a wet process when possible, and using water sprays or exhaust ventilation for some types of manufacturing.
Additional workplace safety measures
Additional workplace safety measures include:
- Providing eye wash fountains near work environments where asbestos is present
- Providing protective clothing to deal with asbestos
- Requiring showers after each shift before changing into street clothing
- Placing contaminated clothing in a specially marked container after use
- Informing professional cleaners about the asbestos, if an off-site service is used
Workers should also be cautioned against eating, drinking, using cosmetics, using tobacco or using chewing products in or near work areas. Food and drink should not be stored in those areas.
Following these safety measures can help protect worker health and reduce the likelihood of workers’ compensation or disability claims. For more information, visit the websites cited below.