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Employer Responsibilities

Asbestos Removal - Bob Villa
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Employer Duty to Keep Employees Safe

OSHA's General Duty Clause states employers have a duty to provide a workplace and work that are safe and healthful to their employees. Employers are not supposed to expose employees to airborne asbestos fibers above OSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL) or excursion limit (EL).

  • the PEL is 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air averaged over an 8-hour work period, and
  • the EL is 1.0 fiber per cubic centimeter of air as averaged over a sampling period of thirty minutes.

Make sure to assess workplaces covered by the standards to determine if asbestos is present and if the work will generate airborne fibers. Coverage under the asbestos standard is based on the nature of the work operation involving asbestos exposure.

It's important to know that before work in areas containing asbestos-containing material (ACM) and potentially asbestos-containing material (PACM) is begun; employers must identify the presence, location, and quantity of ACM, and/or PACM through tests, evaluation, and sample collection. The tests, evaluation and sample collection must be conducted by an accredited inspector or by a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).

Establish an Asbestos Safety Program

When an employer knows that employees may be exposed to asbestos above the 8-hour PEL or 30-minute EL, it is important they develop and deploy an Asbestos Safety Program. Let's discuss some of the most important components of the Asbestos Safety Program.

Assessment and Analysis

Don't Mess With Asbestos Pt. 1
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Assess workplaces covered by the standards to determine if asbestos is present and if the work will generate airborne fibers. Coverage under OSHA's asbestos standard is based on the nature of the work operation involving asbestos exposure.

An accredited asbestos inspector or CIH should test, evaluate, and perform sampling to assess workplaces covered by the standards to determine if asbestos is present and if the work will generate airborne fibers.

ACM and PACM should be tested by an accredited asbestos testing lab for definitive analysis because asbestos can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope.

Evaluation of the Asbestos Safety Program

It's important to evaluate the effectiveness of the Asbestos Safety Program to make sure OSHA, EPA, and state regulations are met. A good tool to use in evaluating the company's program is OSHA's Asbestos Self Inspection Checklist.

Exposure Monitoring

Don't Mess With Asbestos Pt. 2
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Employers should determine employee exposure to airborne asbestos by monitoring within the “breathing zone.” The breathing zone is an area within 12 inches of the employee's nose and mouth. Air samples indicate:

  • each employee's exposure averaged over an 8-hour work shift for each job classification in each work area, and
  • the short-term 30-minute exposure in operations that are most likely to produce exposures over the excursion limit for each shift and in each work area.

Initial Monitoring: Employers should conduct initial monitoring if employees are, or expected to be, exposed to airborne asbestos at or above the PEL/EL.

Additional Monitoring: After initial monitoring, the employer should continue monitoring as frequently as necessary to assure accurate measurements. Conduct monitoring at least every six months if the employer expects employees to be exposed at or above the PEL/EL.

Changes in monitoring frequency: If the results of periodic monitoring statistically (repeatedly and accurately) indicates employee exposures are below the PEL/EL, the employer may discontinue the monitoring of affected employees.

Changes in operations: The employer should begin additional monitoring if:

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  • a change in the production, process, control equipment, personnel or work practices that may result in new or additional exposures above the PEL/EL, or
  • the employer has any reason to suspect a change may result in new or additional exposures above the PEL and/or excursion limit.

Notifying employees: The employer should notify the affected employee individually or by posting the results in an accessible area. The notification must:

  • notify employees within 15 days,
  • be in writing,
  • include corrective actions to reduce employee exposure to or below the PEL/EL.

Observation of monitoring: The employer should provide affected employees and their designated representatives an opportunity to observe any monitoring of employee exposure to asbestos conducted.

When observation of the monitoring of employee exposure to asbestos requires entry into an area where the use of protective clothing or equipment is required, the observer must:

  • be provided with and be required to use protective clothing and equipment, and
  • comply with all other applicable safety and health procedures.


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Hazard Communication: Proper hazard communication and demarcation with warning signs containing specified language in areas that have exposures above the PEL/EL is necessary. The same hazard communication provisions will protect employees who perform housekeeping operations in all three industries covered by OSHA standards.

Housekeeping Employees: Housekeeping employees, regardless of industry designation, should know whether building components they maintain might expose them to asbestos. Employees who perform housekeeping activities during and after construction activities are covered by OSHA's asbestos construction standard, 29 CFR 1926.1101. Building owners are often the only and/or best source of information concerning the presence of previously installed asbestos containing building materials. Therefore, they, along with employers of potentially exposed employees, must covey information and educate their employees.

Medical Surveillance Program

For employers in general industry, construction and shipyard operations, a Medical Surveillance Program is required for all workers who are or will be exposed to airborne concentrations of fibers of asbestos at or above the PEL/EL.

Questionnaires: Employees will complete medical questionnaires detailed in OSHA standards 1910.1001, 1926.1011, and 1915.1001 Appendix D if they are or will be exposed to airborne asbestos hazards above the PEL. These employees will also be included in their employer's medical surveillance program.

Examination: Employers need to provide a pre-placement exam before the employee begins work. Periodic examinations may also be required. The employer should make sure all medical examinations and procedures are performed by or under the supervision of a licensed physician. Here are some important points to remember about examinations:

  • The employer must also pay for the examination.
  • Properly train people who administer the pulmonary function in spirometry.
  • The examination should be complete and emphasize the respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive systems, and a pulmonary function test.
  • Perform periodic examinations at least annually and at the termination of employment.
  • Examinations are not required if records prove the employee has successfully completed an examination, other than the pre-employment examination, within the past year.
  • The physician performing the examination will provide a written opinion to the employer. The opinion will include recommendations and limitations placed on the employee.
  • The employer will notify and provide the asbestos-exposure-related results of the examination to the employee within 30 days of receipt.

Multi-employer Worksites

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On multi-employer worksites, an employer performing work requiring a regulated area should inform other employers of the following:

  • the nature of the employer's work with asbestos and/or PACM,
  • the existence of and requirements pertaining to regulated areas, and
  • the measures taken to ensure that employees of other employers are not exposed to asbestos.

The Creating/Controlling Employer: The contractor who creates or controls the source of asbestos contamination should abate the hazards. For example, if there is a significant breach of an enclosure containing Class I work, the employer responsible for erecting the enclosure should repair the breach immediately.

In addition, employers should comply with applicable protective provisions to protect their employees. For example, if employees working immediately adjacent to a Class I asbestos job are exposed to asbestos due to the inadequate containment of the job, their employer should either:

  • remove the employees from the area until the enclosure breach is repaired; or
  • perform an initial exposure assessment.

Other employers: All employers of employees working adjacent to regulated areas established by another employer on a multi-employer work site should daily check the following to make sure asbestos fibers do not migrate to adjacent areas:

  • the integrity of the enclosure and/or
  • the effectiveness of the control method

General contractors: All general contractors who expose workers to airborne asbestos are considered by OSHA to have supervisory authority over the work even though the general contractor is not qualified to serve as the asbestos "competent person."

As supervisors of the entire project, general contractors should:

  • determine if the asbestos contractor is in compliance with OSHA standards, and
  • require such contractor to come into compliance with this standard when necessary.


Keep records on exposure measurements obtained from monitoring for asbestos for at least 30 years. Retain worker medical surveillance records for the duration of employment plus 30 years. Recordkeeping requirements also include the following:

  • Measurement records should include the date of the measurement, monitored operations, sampling and analysis methods, data on samples taken, type of respirators being worn, and employee personal information.
  • Keep training records for at least one year beyond the last date of employment. Note: We recommend keeping training records for a longer period.
  • If products made from or containing asbestos is exempted from OSHA standards, the employer should maintain records that support the exemption with accurate and objective data.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Employers should not expose employees to airborne asbestos fibers above a PEL of _____ fiber per cubic centimeter of air averaged over an 8-hour work period.

2. Where should employers monitor to determine employee exposure to airborne asbestos?

3. When should the employer begin additional monitoring for asbestos exposure?

4. How soon must the employer notify employees about the results of the asbestos-exposure-related examination.

5. Who is responsible for abating the source of asbestos hazards on multi-employer worksites?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.