OSHA Asbestos Regulations
While asbestos may not be illegal in the United States, it is heavily regulated by the U.S. government. Different government agencies have their own laws and regulations for asbestos control to maintain exposure levels in the workplace and the environment.
Those who work directly with asbestos consistently have a higher chance of contracting a fatal disease than those who do not. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an organization that protects and assures employees they are working in a safe and healthy working environment. Since the carcinogenic asbestos fibers are small and nearly impossible to see, they are a health hazard, and OSHA has regulations to protect workers from asbestos.
These regulations are set in the three industries where workers are regularly exposed to asbestos: the construction industry, the general industry, and shipyards.
- Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) – The maximum amount of asbestos exposure that is allowed. 1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air over an eight-hour time period, or 1.0 asbestos fiber per cubic centimeter of over a 30-minute period.
- Assessment – All work places covered by the standards must be examined for asbestos fibers. If asbestos does exist, then it must be determined if the asbestos fibers pose a threat when disturbed (will the work generate airborne fibers?)
- Monitoring – Monitoring asbestos exposure limits within each industry to determine if the workplace complies with PEL is required.
- Warning Signs and Labels – Caution labels must be placed on all areas that contain asbestos fibers: raw materials, scrap, waste, debris, etc.
- Decontamination and Lunch Areas – Decontamination and lunch areas are designated as separate areas where workers must practice proper hygiene if he/she was exposed to asbestos that was higher than the PEL.
- Protective Gear – Employers must provide adequate protective gear if their employee will be exposed to asbestos that is above the PEL. This includes respiratory devices, full body clothing, goggles, and face shields.
- Training – Annual training must be provided to the employees who are exposed to higher PEL
- Medical Surveillance – Medical surveillance must be provided for workers who experience certain classifications of work or who are exposed to asbestos above the PEL in shipyards and in the construction industry. In the general industry, employees are required to undergo medical examinations if exposed to asbestos at or above PEL.
- Record keeping – Employers are now required to document asbestos exposure monitoring for a minimum of 30 years. Medical surveillance for the employee must be kept on file for the duration of employment, plus 30 years after. Training records must be kept on file for at least one year after employment.
For more in-depth coverage regarding OSHA regulations on asbestos, refer to the OSHA fact sheet
As an employee, know that you have rights under OSHA. If you think your workplace is hazardous, you have the right to contact OSHA and ask them to inspect your environment. At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C. (GPW) we do not tolerate work place violations. If you are suffering from a life-threatening illness that may have been caused by asbestos exposure, contact the attorneys at GPW for a free, no obligation consultation.
U.S. Department of Labor “OSHA©Fact Sheet – Asbestos”(January 2014). [Link]
U.S. Department of Labor, Program Highlights “Better Protection Against Asbestos in the Work Place,” Fact Sheet No. OSHA 92-06. [Link]