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Asbestos in the Workplace

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance which has been used in the construction of most buildings, but it is also very hazardous to human health if it is disturbed and the fibres are inhaled. Regular exposure to asbestos in the workplace can lead to many health issues in later life such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Depending on your role in the workplace you may be at risk of coming into contact with asbestos, so it is important to recognise it in order to avoid serious exposure.

Identifying Asbestos

There are three different types of asbestos which may be found in the workplace. All of these will pose a threat to health.

  • Amosite (which is brown in colour and is also known as grunerite).
  • Chrysotile (is white asbestos also known as serpentine).
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos which is also referred to as riebeckite).

Although the different types do vary in colour it is not always possible to make the identification by colour alone. If in doubt, do not touch it and seek a second or third opinion.

Where are the risks

Prior to the year 2000 almost all buildings were built with asbestos in one way or another. It can now be found in many different parts of these buildings such as;

  • The roofing insulation
  • Within the fire protection on doors
  • Water tanks
  • Piping
  • Wallboards
  • Ceiling tiles

Disturbance of asbestos within buildings usually occur during renovations such as drilling, cutting, and removal. The disturbed fibres are inhaled but health problems often do not occur for 15 to 30 years.

Reducing the risk to Health

It is important to spend some time assessing the risk of asbestos exposure to ensure that you do not disturb it. If you feel there is a risk of asbestos exposure when carrying out a certain task then special precaution should be taken. This includes sealing the asbestos in before moving it and wearing a protective mask.