The Dangers of Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace

The Dangers of Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace | HealthSoul

For many years, asbestos has been used for its heat-resistant properties. It provides excellent insulation and is a natural mineral. Though these are helpful properties, asbestos has its drawbacks, as it can cause many serious health problems when an individual comes in contact with the dangerous microscopic fibers.

The potent carcinogen can be particularly hazardous to the workers being exposed daily for lengthy durations in their workplaces.

Asbestos Exposure Risks

Lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma are all directly related to asbestos exposure. These diseases can be severe and debilitating but are not immediately evident.

The latency issues surrounding asbestos exposure may make employers and employees lax in their protections. But, the truth of the matter is it can take a decade to forty years for the symptoms to present themselves. Asbestos, “the silent killer,” can take years to develop and decades before the symptoms begin to present themselves.

One of the most deadly effects of asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. This lethal form of cancer affects the abdomen, lung lining, and chest. Mesothelioma is nearly always caused by asbestos exposure and often has a bleak outcome. The chronic lung disease causes the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Respiratory problems

Those who have had prolonged exposure to asbestos are more likely to develop lung cancer.

How Asbestos Infiltrates the Body

Asbestos, once a commonly used construction material, can lead to a range of severe health issues like cancer and lung disease. Here are several ways that the material can be hazardous in the workplace:

  • Inhaling asbestos fibers when materials containing them are disturbed is one of the primary ways that asbestos enters the body. Employees who inhale the particles are at a greater risk of developing diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
  • Asbestos fibers can be absorbed through contact with the skin, leading to not only skin irritation but other more serious health problems.
  • Accidental ingestion over time can create problems. Take care not to eat or drink in areas where asbestos fibers might be present.
  • Secondhand exposure is another way that people become exposed. The fibers can come home on the clothes or tools of an employee who works with asbestos.
  • Lack of education when working in an asbestos-laden space can increase the risk to those who are exposed. Proper training and proper safety gear are crucial to avoiding exposure.

Protecting Employers from Asbestos Exposure

Avoiding asbestos exposure is the best way to prevent asbestos-related health complications. Employers should take precautions to identify materials that contain asbestos and then remove them from the workplace.

Here are a few steps that employers and employees can take to reduce exposure to this potent carcinogen:

  • Provide employees personal protective equipment (PPE) like respirators and protective clothing.
  • Employee training in the dangers and the handling of asbestos materials and the safest way to remove it can go a long way in creating a safer environment.
  • Employers should make workers aware of the dangers of asbestos-related diseases and have them come to them with health problems.

Potential Ways Workers can be Exposed to Asbestos in the Workplace

It is critical to the safety of everyone in the workplace to understand the threats that accompany asbestos exposure and how to best avoid them.

Below are a few of the ways an employee could come into contact with the deadly material:

  • Asbestos that is disturbed during construction or remodeling can put asbestos particles into the air. This could come from drilling, sanding, or cutting into materials that contain asbestos.
  • It is sometimes present in cement pipes, insulation, roofing, and other materials. By handling them or disposing of them, a worker could be inhaling asbestos if they are without protection.
  • Old hospitals, schools, and factories were full of asbestos. Workers in these structures today most likely face exposure to asbestos.
  • Equipment, often older pieces, like boilers and furnaces, contain asbestos and could be a health hazard if they are being worked with.
  • If employees go home with asbestos fibers on their clothing, they may expose their loved ones to asbestos through a secondhand channel.

How Employees Can Protect Themselves

There are precautions that employees working in an industry where asbestos exposure is prevalent should take to limit the risks. Here are a few things they can do:

  • Get training about asbestos awareness. Typically, your employer should provide this so that you can identify and know the proper way to handle asbestos.
  • Always wear your personal protective equipment (PPE). Protective clothing and respirators are critical while working with asbestos-containing materials.
  • Never cut, sand, or drill into an asbestos-containing material without taking appropriate safety measures first. Follow all of the safety guidelines outlined in your training.
  • Change out of your protective clothing before leaving for home or getting into your car or public transportation to avoid others getting exposed second-hand.

Taking Care to Avoid Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace

Deliberate precautions can help you to avoid asbestos exposure in the workplace. Follow all safety measures even though they may seem excessive now. In ten to 40 years, you will be thankful that you did since asbestos-related diseases do not occur immediately.

Speak to your employer if you have questions or concerns about handling these materials or your health-related questions. If everyone works together, many asbestos-related illnesses may be avoided.