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Asbestos Hazard: Frequently Asked Questions and Safety Guidelines

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fiber and carcinogen, finds application in construction, shipbuilding and automotive industries. The hazard lies in inhalation and unintended ingestion of these fibers when they are released into the air due to a disturbance of asbestos containing materials. These fibers can become trapped in the lungs or embedded in the digestive tract. Prolonged exposure can cause asbestosis, non-malignant lung and pleural disorders, mesothelioma, lung disease and lung cancer.
Classified as a carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, asbestos has also been defined in both the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) 1979 and the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) 1986.
The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) defines asbestos installation and removal regulations as well as guidelines to reduce the amount of asbestos fibers released into the air.
OSHA has also established strict workplace regulations to manage asbestos exposure. You can find complete details on the OSHA site.
You may also access EPA’s asbestos-specific laws and regulations for further details.
OSHA has established detailed regulations for employers to monitor and manage asbestos exposure at the workplace, and ensure the health and safety of employees. These regulations require employers to:
- Conduct awareness programs, constantly monitor asbestos levels, and create regulated zones as required.
- Ensure the airborne asbestos concentration is no more than 0.2 fibers per cubic centimeter of air.
- Provide employees with protective clothing, hygiene facilities, and regular health checks.
- Post asbestos warning signs near asbestos materials.
Additionally, employers should also ensure the installation of properly functioning ventilation, exhaust vents, and respirators.
Based on the type of workforce, OSHA has three standards to safeguard workers from the hazards of asbestos. These standards address asbestos exposure specific to the general industry, shipyards, and construction.
The standards define permissible exposure limits as well as the steps and precautions employers must take for the safety of workers.
You can find complete details on the OSHA website.
The new OSHA asbestos signage requirements dictate that warning signs be provided and displayed at all regulated areas and approaches to regulated areas. Signs must words as listed below:


OSHA also requires employers to use relevant asbestos warning signs where the use of protective clothing and respirators is required. These asbestos warning labels or signs must use language like, “WEAR RESPIRATORY PROTECTION AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING IN THIS AREA.”
Employers should ensure the signage is understood by workers. This may include the use of foreign language, pictographs and graphics, and awareness training.
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