Construction laborers are among the workers who are most exposed to the asbestos that may exist in older buildings.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict standards that such workers must follow. OSHA has developed a classification system and the identification of a “competent person.”
The classification system
- Class I is potentially the most hazardous relative to asbestos exposure. It consists of asbestos-containing insulation and sprayed- or troweled-on surfacing materials. Workers must assume that asbestos is present in any building constructed in 1981 or before.
- Class II refers to the removal of asbestos-containing floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roofing, siding or transite panels
- Class III includes repair or maintenance work that disturbs asbestos-containing materials (ACM).
- Class IV covers custodial work with regard to asbestos-containing debris produced due to building construction, repair or maintenance.
The competent person
OSHA requires that employers appoint a “competent person” to all job sites having asbestos operations. He or she will perform an exposure assessment of the area. A negative assessment indicates that exposure is below the permissible exposure limit (PEL). The competent person will identify any asbestos problems and ensure safety and health as workers correct these hazards.
Employees must work with asbestos within a marked-off, regulated area containing an accumulation of waste from asbestos removal. Under competent person supervision, all Class I, II and III work must take place in regulated areas. Employers must post warning signs here that are easily readable. Workers must not eat, drink, chew tobacco or gum, smoke or apply makeup in regulated areas. The competent worker must monitor these areas daily to ensure that the control methods are effective in keeping dangerous airborne asbestos particles from spreading.