How to Safely Spot Asbestos

Safety and health quality workers are no strangers to asbestos. Training programs are designed to introduce workers to the dangers of this carcinogenic industrial material, and workers have been abundantly warned to avoid the fibers.
There’s just one catch: asbestos cannot be visually identified, and workers are at risk of inhaling the fibers if they improperly handle contaminated materials. This makes spotting and handling asbestos tricky, but there are several ways workers can protect themselves.
Before beginning any job where asbestos may be present, workers should familiarize themselves with safe identification, testing and handling methods. These methods are typically taught in detail in abatement certification classes, but below are some general tips workers can apply in asbestos-contaminated sites.
Identifying Asbestos
Asbestos can be an ingredient in a number of industrial products, including:
· Tiles
· Shingles
· Insulation
· Wallboard
· Paint
Because asbestos contained within these products cannot be visually identified, workers should assume that these products contain asbestos until laboratory testing confirms otherwise.
To sample for asbestos, workers will need to remove a piece of the product. Sampling can release friable asbestos into the air, so workers are cautioned to follow removal methods outlined in their training courses. One of these recommended methods is wet removal, in which a special water-based solution is applied to the product before a sample is taken. This reduces the risk of asbestos being released into the air.
To ensure safety during the handling of asbestos, workers should also wear the proper protective gear any time they enter a potentially asbestos-contaminated testing site.
What to Do After Identifying Asbestos
If laboratory tests determine that asbestos is indeed present, workers must return to either encapsulate or remove the friable asbestos. The same precautions should be applied during sampling, and all local laws for disposal should be followed to safely complete the identification and removal process.
Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

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