Asbestos in Healthcare
There are many different areas that asbestos can be found.
When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, the tiny fibers are released into the air and inhaled by unprotected workers. Once inhaled, the fibers can become trapped in the lungs.
If swallowed, the asbestos fibers can also become embedded in the digestive tract.
There are many potential asbestos sources which can unknowingly expose healthcare maintenance workers and engineers to asbestos.
Asbestos is commonly found in older buildings, including hospitals, built before 1981. Buildings constructed after January 1981 are less likely to have asbestos-containing materials installed in them.
Asbestos may be found in many items such as:
- HVAC Duct Insulation
- boiler insulation
- pipe insulation
- cooling towers
- floor tile/ceiling tile
- electrical wiring insulation
- wall board or spackling compounds
Employers must post signs at entrances to mechanical rooms/areas that contain asbestos.
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To reduce your risk of exposure to asbestos, follow the Asbestos Standard for General Industry [
29 CFR 1910.1001] including:
- Follow permissible exposure limits (PELs) and include provisions for engineering controls, respirators, protective clothing, exposure monitoring, hygiene facilities and practices,
warning signs, labeling, recordkeeping, and medical exams.
- Ensure workplace exposure is limited to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter of air (0.1 f/cc), averaged over an eight-hour work shift. The excursion or short-term limit is one fiber per
cubic centimeter of air (1 f/cc) averaged over a sampling period of 30 minutes.
- Whenever asbestos fibers are exposed, they present a hazard and should be removed or encapsulated so as not to be released into the environment. Only fully trained personnel should
remove asbestos using methods and PPE covered in 1910.1001.
- Asphalt and vinyl flooring material installed before 1980 also must be treated as asbestos-containing.
- Installed thermal system insulation and sprayed-on and troweled-on surfacing materials found in buildings constructed no later than 1980 are presumed to be asbestos-containing materials
(greater than 1% asbestos).
- Sanding of asbestos-containing flooring material is prohibited.
- Building and facility owners must determine the presence, location, and quantity of asbestos-containing material (ACM) and presumed asbestos-containing material (PACM) and keep
records of ACM/PACM.
- Building and facility owners must inform other employers, and their own employees who will perform housekeeping activities, of the presence and location of such materials.
- Employers must post signs at entrances to mechanical rooms/areas that contain ACM/PACM and that employees may enter.
- Employers must provide an asbestos awareness training course to employees who will perform housekeeping activities in an area containing ACM or PACM.
- Employers must keep exposure monitoring records for asbestos for at least 30 years, and worker medical surveillance records kept for the duration of employment plus 30 years.
Employers must keep training records for at least 1 year beyond the last date of employment.
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