Asbestos in the Workplace

By: March 29, 2014 Comments
An image of a Caution asbestos sign

Asbestos In The Workplace

One should never play around with asbestos. It happens to be very toxic fibrous mineral with a track record for causing severe illnesses like mesothelioma.

So if you suspect asbestos in your workplace, and you believe your employer lacks the authority and expertise to handle asbestos, and your employer refuses to deal with it, then you reserve the right to act on behalf of your own safety and well-being.

Introduction To Asbestos

Asbestos represents a wide range of fibrous minerals like chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite and tremolite. When dormant asbestos gets disturbed, it releases asbestos fibers into the air. If you as an employee breath in asbestos fibers, they might wind up trapped in your lungs, where they will remain (and possibly accumulate).

The problem is that all forms of asbestos carry certain risks. Unfortunately, men and women sometimes get exposed to asbestos in the most unexpected places like at their work or even at their home. Even worse is the fact that an accumulation of carcinogenic asbestos fibers can lead to a variety of diseases and conditions:

  • Shortness Of Breath
  • Coughing
  • Pleural Plaques
  • Pleural Thickening
  • Pleural Effusions
  • Lung Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal Cancer
  • Throat Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Esophagus Cancer
  • Gall Bladder Cancer

In past times, working with asbestos was done without thought to risk and injury. Because of this, many workers winded up with long-term occupational diseases. This led to the introduction of strict controls regarding how asbestos can be handled. These controls are defined by Safe Work Australia.

The bottom line is that if your job is not intrinsically tied to asbestos but you suspect asbestos to be present, then you reserve the right to report it.

Signs Of Asbestos In The Workplace

Before you report asbestos, you might want to try to confirm it. Note for instance that asbestos comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, though the most prominent happen to be blue, brown and white. However, asbestos mixed with other products and substances becomes much harder to identify. If you believe asbestos to be present, you option might be to check an asbestos image gallery and compare what you see in the gallery to what you see at work.

If you confirm with some degree of certainty that asbestos is indeed present, avoid dealing directly with it to minimize the potential risk of exposure. Also refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in the work area. Most likely, the work area will be shut off temporarily until inspectors or whomever can enter the area and officially test for asbestos.

Reporting Asbestos In The Workplace

If you suspect asbestos to be present in your workplace, one available option involves speaking with your immediate health and safety representative. Understand that no conclusion can be made until the presence of asbestos is officially confirmed via laboratory testing. However, health and safety representatives have the power to stop all on-site work due to potential health and safety breaches.

Another option available is to speak directly with your employer and request a copy of a workplace asbestos risk analysis plan. If the employer lacks such a plan, then you may request that one be drawn up immediately to deal with the current contingency. Also consider asking for copies of all documentation pertaining to the use of asbestos at said property. This might require some digging by the employer, but the info the employer finds could be very helpful when it comes to locating the exact location of the asbestos.

If your representative or employer fails to take your concerns seriously, you reserve the right to complain with your local health and safety authority.

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