Following the Rules Could Save Your Life
As you may know, the South African Department of Labour put forth updated Asbestos Regulations about seven years ago in an effort to protect all workers from asbestos exposure and subsequent health concerns, including the eventual development of asbestos cancer, also known as mesothelioma .
One of the first regulations involved notifying the appropriate authorities (including provincial directors) prior to beginning any asbestos removal projects.
Once any asbestos-related endeavor begins, employers are mandated to protect their workers by preventing any workers from entering areas where the asbestos level exceeds 0.2 fibers per millilitre of air averaged over a four-hour period.
All workers must be notified that there may be asbestos present in the workplace prior to beginning work. During the project phase, employers must provide the following to their workers to ensure their health and safety:
- Proper ventilation in the workplace to prevent settling of asbestos fibers and dust,
- Protective outerwear, including goggles, booties, gloves, jackets and pants to prevent asbestos fibers from clinging to clothing, hair and shoes,
- Respirators that adequately cover the nose and mouth to avoid inhalation
Appropriate Safety Regulations should be posted in the workplace to provide workers with necessary precautionary measures.
Safety is a priority during any asbestos removal project, but the need for safety precautions extends beyond abatement into the asbestos disposal phase. Once asbestos is removed from a structure it poses an even greater threat, as the asbestos fibers have been damaged and more likely to become airborne.
Upon removal, all asbestos-containing materials must be contained prior to transfer from the workplace to an appropriate disposal area. Containers must be marked to indicate that they contain potentially hazardous materials.
Asbestos waste must be disposed of in an area that has been approved for asbestos dumping under the stipulations of the Environmental Conservation Act and the National Environmental Management Act. Any worker that is responsible for the transfer and dumping of asbestos waste must be provided with a respirator and protective outerwear.
Upon disposal, transportation vehicles must be cleaned thoroughly to prevent transfer of any errant fibers from the approved dumping area to a secondary location. Any accidental spillage of asbestos waste must be reported and cleaned immediately.
When dealing with asbestos, it is absolutely necessary to follow all regulations in an effort to protect the health and safety of all individuals, as well as the environment. In recent years the number of instances of mesothelioma that has been a result of second-hand asbestos exposure has increased, furthering the need for adherence to all regulations by all employers and their workers.
Exposure to asbestos is the only recognized cause of mesothelioma, a fatal type of cancer that has no cure and a survival rate of less than one percent.
For further information regarding occupational asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, please visit the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center website .