Featured image by Mark Agnor

If you are the owner or a manager of a company in an industry that poses a risk for asbestos exposure, keeping your workers safe is of the utmost importance. This is because, when inhaled, asbestos could make your employees seriously ill. In addition to this, it could lead to mesothelioma lawsuits that can bankrupt your company.

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Who is at risk for asbestos exposure? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken action to protect the public from exposure to this harmful material. Nonetheless, unlike other countries, the United States does not have an asbestos ban in place. To this day, workers in the following industries put themselves at risk by handling asbestos and products and equipment made with asbestos:

  • Construction workers
  • Miners
  • Asbestos plant workers
  • Boiler workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set limits for asbestos exposure. Part of this includes setting up regulated areas to protect employees who are working with asbestos. Therefore, the first thing you’ll need to do to keep your workers safe is to make sure you are OSHA compliant.

The Dangers of Asbestos

Many people think the word asbestos describes a particular mineral. However, the truth is there are six different fibrous materials that occur naturally and can be deadly when inhaled. Collectively, these are known as “asbestos.”

Manufacturers use these six minerals to produce many products, from the brakes of your car to the insulation in your attic. When these minerals are handled, they separate into microscopic, airborne particles. Thereafter, people are likely to inhale them in residential and commercial workplace settings. Additionally, the more of these particles a person inhales and the greater the duration of exposure, the more likely they are to cause serious problems.

For example, some of the diseases inhaled asbestos can cause include mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Pleural mesothelioma, which is mesothelioma of the lungs, is always fatal. One of the most frightening things about this disease is it can take decades to learn you have it.

Asbestos in the Workplace Safety Tips

One of the most important aspects of protecting your employees from asbestos exposure is providing adequate training. Your workers need to know how to recognize an asbestos hazard and what to do when they encounter one. Here are some other tips for asbestos safety in the workplace:

  • Place adequate warning signs in any area where workers handle asbestos and make sure your employees read them
  • Make sure your workers wear protective clothing that covers their entire body, head, and face, including using goggles and face shields when necessary
  • Provide your workers with well-fitting respirators for the level of asbestos exposure they may experience on the job
  • Instruct your employees not to drink, eat, or smoke in areas where asbestos may be present
  • If a worker is not performing tasks where they may be exposed to asbestos, make sure they do not enter the regulated area
  • Instruct all employees to never enter an asbestos-regulated space without respiratory protection
  • Use a HEPA vacuum in any area where workers have handled asbestos and make sure the material is wet before anyone vacuums it and places it into bags

You will also want to cover the decontamination process so your employees understand how to decontaminate after working with asbestos. Your workers should also shower after working with asbestos. If they don’t, their family members may also be at risk of asbestos exposure.

Signs of Asbestos Exposure

How will you know if any of your workers have already been exposed to asbestos? If you observe any of the following symptoms in your employees, they may have already been exposed.

  • Clubbing of the fingers and toes
  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry, persistent cough

If you or any one of your employees are exhibiting any of these signs, it’s time to go to a doctor for an evaluation. The sooner a doctor diagnoses mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions, the more treatment options you will have available. You can visit pintas.com to learn more about how you can get tested for mesothelioma.

Incentives for Workers to Stop Smoking

Workers who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop mesothelioma after asbestos exposure. Therefore, to keep your workers safe, your company should offer your employees incentives to quit smoking. Here are the steps you can take to encourage your workers to give up this deadly habit.

  • Make your property a tobacco-free zone and enforce consequences for those who violate the policy
  • Offer incentives to workers who quit smoking
  • Choose a health insurance plan that offers benefits to those who quit smoking
  • Cover the copay of any programs the insurance offers to quit smoking
  • Consider starting a wellness program with “stop smoking” coaches
  • Make sure your workers are aware of other programs that can help them quit smoking by including them in your company newsletter
  • Remind workers about the dangers of mixing tobacco use with exposure to asbestos

Your company may also want to observe the World Health Organization’s “World No Tobacco Day” in May and the American Smokeout in November. You can observe these days by having a party, catering lunch, or letting workers go home early. Both organizations offer free promo materials you can pass on to your employees to encourage them.

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If an Employee Is Diagnosed with Mesothelioma

If despite your best efforts one of your employees is diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition, they will most likely file a claim with your company’s workers’ compensation insurance. They will want to get the cost of their treatments and their lost wages partially covered. Unfortunately, this compensation is often not enough.

For this reason, many workers also choose to file lawsuits for negligent asbestos exposure on the job. Then, your company may have to pay for their medical bills, missed work, medical travel, medical equipment, and more. Moreover, companies that are especially negligent may end up going bankrupt and having to create a mesothelioma trust to cover their former employees’ damages.

This is a worst-case scenario no company owner or manager wants to see. It is much easier and more cost-effective to take preventative measures today rather than dealing with the fallout from asbestos exposure later on, when it may have cost your workers their lives.