Asbestos has been widely used in a range of materials and applications throughout Canada and around the world. Recent asbestos regulations in Canada have limited its use, but it is still present in older buildings and materials. Exposure to airborne asbestos, which becomes trapped in the lungs, can cause serious health side-effects. To limit asbestos exposure, especially in the workplace, a number of precautions and safety practices should be followed.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral whose heat-resistant and insulating properties allow it to be used in a wide range of manufactured products. Asbestos can be found in fireproofing and insulation, plaster, textiles, cement and many other applications. It is very common to find asbestos in older homes, buildings and products.
Finding asbestos in the workplace can be a potentially serious hazard if not handled properly. Those who inhale asbestos fibres are at risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer.
Why Is Asbestos Dangerous?
Evidence of asbestos dangers is clear; asbestos is a known cancer-causing agent or carcinogen. When products containing asbestos are disturbed or handled, tiny fibres are released and become trapped in lung tissue when inhaled. Over time these fibres can cause serious inflammation, breathing difficulties and severe health problems. Some of the direct risks to asbestos exposure include asbestosis, which is an inflammation of the lungs causing shortness of breath, chronic coughing and lung damage. The other health risk is developing mesothelioma, cancer frequently associated with asbestos exposure.
Canadian Asbestos Regulations
The Canadian Government recognizes the health risks directly associated with asbestos fibres and has taken action to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure. In October 2018, all products containing asbestos have been prohibited within Canada. This ban includes the sale, manufacturing, or import of asbestos-containing products, with some exceptions.
How To Handle Asbestos In The Workplace
It is essential to implement safety procedures to reduce the risk to workers where asbestos is present. Each workplace should develop a control plan which should include:
- Containment procedures when asbestos is present
- Strategies to reduce the release of asbestos fibres
- Hygiene practices for workers who have come in contact with asbestos
- Mandatory personal protective equipment and clothing
- Decontamination methods when contact with asbestos has been made
- Removal and clean-up of asbestos and related materials
All workers and workplace staff should be briefed on proper handling and safety procedures and have easy access to protective gear when working with asbestos. Areas that contain asbestos and related materials should be properly marked to warn workers of asbestos dangers.
At Industrial Refrigeration Systems LTD, safety is our top priority. If you have questions or concerns about asbestos exposure or workplace safety, contact us today to learn about our workplace safety training program.