Workplace Health and Safety Considerations for Asbestos Removal Workers

When you work in the construction industry, you have to be prepared to deal with risks. This is especially true if you provide asbestos removal services. It’s a delicate procedure that is highly regulated, simply because asbestos is hazardous material. Thus, the job requires highly trained professionals to conduct safely and effectively.

As such, asbestos removal workers of any stature have to keep in mind and apply several workplace health and safety considerations and procedures. Doing so can help prevent accidents as well as keep everyone safe before, during, and after the asbestos removal process.

If Asbestos Is Harmful, Why Is It Present In Buildings?

It’s believed that asbestos was discovered and used as early as 4,000 B.C. for lamps and candle wicks. In construction, asbestos and asbestos-containing materials have been used since the 1800s, usually for fireproofing and insulation. It was popular not only due to its incredible strength and durability but also due to its low cost.

However, after some research, it was discovered that asbestos fibres can cause a variety of diseases. These include asbestosis, a chronic lung condition that causes shortness of breath, persistent dry cough, and other lung-related symptoms.

As a result, asbestos gradually became less popular and ultimately banned. However, because of its extensive use, almost all structures built before the 1980s had some form of asbestos.

Monitoring Air Quality

One of the most important things that asbestos removal workers should pay attention to while doing their jobs is the air quality. Remember that asbestos isn’t innately harmful. It’s only when its fibres—which can get released when asbestos-containing materials are crushed, moved, or otherwise disturbed—get into the lungs that asbestos becomes an active threat to health.

Thus, workers should always wear appropriate personal protective equipment when removing asbestos from a site. Supervisors should also practise the same. In addition, there should be HEPA filter systems in the area to trap particles and prevent them from spreading to other areas.

If these aren’t available at the site, don’t proceed with the removal work. Get in touch with the proper authorities and make sure that everything is in order before you start the asbestos removal.

Proper Licences

While it’s possible to DIY asbestos removal, it’s only advisable for small spaces like homes. For much bigger, industrial-level structures such as office buildings and skyscrapers, hiring professional asbestos removers is the best and only choice.

In New Zealand, an individual can apply for an asbestos removal licence after proper asbestos removal training. Upon receipt, the licence is valid for 5 years for Class A and Class B removal as well as for supervisory positions. If you don’t have a valid licence, you will not be able to provide your services to any entity.

You will need to provide the copy of your certificate for relevant courses when you apply for a new licence or a licence renewal. Make sure that you have completed the relevant programme since NZQA Standard cannot be used in place of the other.

General Knowledge

While undergoing asbestos removal training, you’ll learn all you need to know in order to do your job in a safe and efficient manner. That said, there are some things that should always be at the forefront of your mind whenever you work with asbestos. These include the following:

  • asbestos can be present almost anywhere in a building
  • asbestos fibres can be dislodged easily, particularly in aged materials
  • asbestos fibres can take up to 72 hours to settle
  • asbestos disposal is as crucial as asbestos removal

More Considerations

In addition to those mentioned above, the following list also covers various points of consideration to ensure safe and efficient asbestos removal:

  • know the type of asbestos present and its condition (e.g., if the asbestos-containing material is old and therefore more easily crushed)
  • establish all potential risks based on the above information, relative to the building size and location
  • make sure that there is a plan of work, containing all the details of the job
  • ensure that the correct number of workers are present; don’t let two asbestos removalists handle a four-person job
  • ensure that there is an asbestos supervisor present
  • have a list of contact persons in case you have any questions or clarifications, or need something crucial addressed before the work commences
  • be ready to draw up a report, including any and all incidents that may have arisen while doing the work
  • ensure that the disposal of the removed asbestos can be carried out in a safe, orderly manner

The construction industry is an innately high-risk one, with asbestos removal being one of the most hazardous. Fortunately, asbestos removal specialists have plenty of resources that can help ensure their health and safety while they work—the above being just a few examples.

The key is to be strict about the rules. Don’t start any work if there are things you aren’t sure about. With a job like asbestos removal, clarity and specificity are your best friends.

CC Training Academy offers courses for safe asbestos removal.