There has been a campaign for the ban on Asbestos for more than 50 years, but this dangerous material is still in use within our midst. In fact, this toxic fibre is still the single greatest cause of work related deaths in the UK.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring set of silicate minerals that form long and thin fibrous crystals. This material is used within buildings, because it is strong and has many beneficial properties including sound absorption, tensile strength and resistance to heat, fire and electrical damage. It has also been used in many other products, including floor tiles, plastics, garden products and car brakes. It would be the ideal building material, if it weren’t so terribly deadly to humans.
The Problem With Asbestos Exposure
The problem with asbestos is when the tiny fibres within the material become airborne. They are breathed into the lungs by anyone working in the vicinity and can cause serious damage, resulting in an early death.
Once they have been breathed in, the tiny fibres become trapped in the lungs and they stay there for many years. Over time, these fibres will accumulate and will lead to serious health problems. One of the issues that they can cause is Asbestosis, which is an inflammation of the lung. The symptoms of this are coughing, shortness of breath and even scarring of the lungs.
Another major health risk of asbestos is Mesothelioma, which is a rare type of cancer that affects the lining of your lungs and the inside of your chest cavity. Also, asbestos can cause other lung related issues including thickening of the membranes around the lungs and collection of fluid within the lungs.
These problems might not show up right away and could take years to develop. In some cases, lung cancer will not develop until 15 or more years after the exposure to asbestos occurred. In most cases, people have no idea that they have inhaled asbestos.
Health and Safety – Handling Asbestos Correctly
When it comes to handling asbestos, there is a proper procedure for how it should be done with minimal risk. This deadly fibre is very toxic and needs to be handled in a certain way. You can take health and safety courses in order to learn how to manage asbestos safely. Within the health and safety course you will be instructed on the proper procedures for removing and disposing of this material, without any risks to your health. Also, you will be informed of the up to date asbestos regulations that have been recently introduced.
Tips to Keep in Mind when you are Handling Asbestos
1). Follow Proper Procedures
When you are working on a project that involves asbestos removal, it is tempting to want to cut corners and skip the proper safety procedures. However, don’t sacrifice your long term health for a quick shortcut right now! You will regret it later on in life when you are diagnosed with lung cancer.
This is why you should always take all of the steps required when working with asbestos, such as sealing off the area carefully, wetting down the materials and wearing the required safety mask. You can take a health and safety course in order to learn these safe working procedures.
If you are an employee in a workplace and your manager or supervisor is asking you to cut corners and not take proper precautions when working with asbestos, you don’t have to listen to them. They should not be asking you to compromise your safety and health, so you have the right to refuse to do the work and bring the matter up with the Health and Safety Executive.
2). Educate Yourself
It would be a terrible shame to suffer from asbestos exposure simply because you were not aware of a risk within a particular situation. This is why it is so important to make yourself aware and educated about asbestos. Find out the common locations for this material and learn which products are most likely to contain it. This way, you will be able to spot the presence of asbestos so that you can take the correct safety precautions when dealing with it.
3). Always Wear a Mask
If you are working in an environment where asbestos exposure is a threat, it is important to wear the right safety equipment. This includes a self-contained breathing apparatus, which will protect you from dust, gases and toxic substances. This mask should have a HEPA filter to make sure that it is filtering all of the toxins out. Some workers are not very diligent about wearing their masks, but unfortunately this can put their health at risk.
4). Wash Your Clothes
Did you know that families of those who work with asbestos can be exposed to the substance when workers bring the fibres home with them on their clothes? If you are working with asbestos, you should not wear your work clothes directly home but should rather wash them at your workplace.
If this is not possible, at least change out of them and carry them home in a plastic bag. Rinse the clothes first before washing them, because when the asbestos fibres are wet they will not become airborne.
5). Take a Shower
If asbestos fibres can cling to your clothes, they can also become attached to your hair and skin.
As soon as your workday is over, you should take a shower to make sure that all of the fibres have been removed from your body. It is a requirement enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that any company which handles asbestos should provide showering facilities on the jobsite.
Asbestos can be a dangerous material, so make sure that you follow these important precautions when working with it. With the right Asbestos Awareness training, you should be able to deal with the risks of asbestos in a safe way so that you will protect the health of your lungs in the future.