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Protecting Construction Workers From Asbestos Dust

Tuba Tasneem

March 27, 2023

Read time : 04 mins

Table of contents

What Is Asbestos? What Are It's Risks? How To Prevent Risks? 5 Ways To Avoid Asbestos Exposure

protecting workers from asbestos dust

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally found fibrous rock. Up until 1999, it was frequently utilised in residences and other constructions. The 3 main categories of asbestos are:

  • Crocidolite (also known as blue asbestos)
  • Amosite (also known as brown asbestos)
  • Chrysotile (also known as white asbestos)

Asbestos provides high fire protection qualities, inhibits corrosion, and functions as an insulator (to keep heat in and cold out). It was widely utilised from the 1950s to the middle of the 1980s. As a result, it can be found in various building fixtures and construction materials, including ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, boilers, and sprayed coatings. However, it can still be found in structures constructed before 2000.

When asbestos fibres become airborne, the materials threaten your health. This occurs when asbestos-containing materials are cut, drilled, or otherwise damaged while being used in construction. High levels of asbestos fibres may be inhaled while working on or near damaged asbestos. The total amount of these fibres you breathe is a major risk factor for asbestos-related disease. Regularly completing simple tasks can put you at risk. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 established guidelines for safeguarding workers and others from the dangers of asbestos exposure.

What is the risk to construction workers?

The most significant occupational illness risk for construction workers is asbestos. According to data the HSE commissioned, the industry’s cancer mortality accounted for more than two-thirds of the over 2,500 deaths of construction workers in 2005. There are two types of cancers that asbestos can cause:

  • Mesothelioma – a lining-related lung cancer. It almost usually results in death and is brought on by asbestos exposure.
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer – Almost always, this is lethal.

The other diseases caused by asbestos are:

  • Asbestosis
  • Diffuse Pleural Thickening

The cumulative effect of asbestos exposure makes you more likely to develop diseases linked to asbestos in the future. However, these illnesses won’t harm you right away because it might take anywhere between 15 and 60 years for symptoms to appear. It is also significant to keep in mind that smoking greatly increases your risk of lung cancer caused by asbestos.

How to Prevent this risk?

You can take several actions, starting with always keeping in mind the chance that the building you are working on might contain asbestos.

Employers are required to do a risk assessment before beginning any maintenance, renovation, demolition, or other construction work to determine the presence of asbestos.

It is the responsibility of non-domestic property owners or managers to manage asbestos. This entails locating and documenting any asbestos location and state. Anyone working must access this information to help them manage exposure risks to themselves, their employees, and others.


5 Ways for Construction Workers to Avoid Asbestos Exposure
1. Take an Asbestos Safety Course

All personnel working on job sites with asbestos are expected to receive asbestos awareness training. These training sessions cover the following topics and instruct participants on how to prevent asbestos exposure:

  • How to spot asbestos-containing items
  • Contributing factors to asbestos exposure
  • Use of respirators
  • Workplace asbestos prevention measures Potential health implications of asbestos exposure
  • Requirements for medical surveillance programmes
  • asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers
  • Information about how to reach smoking cessation programmes

When it comes to asbestos exposure, knowledge is power. To safeguard yourself and your family from exposure, learn everything you can about prevention.

2. Use a HEPA-Filter Mask and Vacuum

The best defence against asbestos fibre inhalation is a HEPA-filter mask. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can capture 99.97% fibres with a diameter of 0.3 micrometres or less. Most asbestos fibres are captured by these filters when they are utilised appropriately. Employees who work around asbestos must have access to these masks from their employers.

Local exhaust ventilation with HEPA-filter dust collection devices is required to collect as many asbestos fibres as feasible during certain asbestos jobs. To remove asbestos dust and debris, vacuums with HEPA filters are necessary.

3. Avoid Practices That Disturb Dust

On projects involving asbestos, specific work techniques that cause the emission of asbestos fibres are forbidden.

Some examples of these practices are:

  • Use of saws lacking a HEPA-filtered exhaust or a point-of-cut ventilator
  • Compressed air is used to get rid of asbestos-containing materials
  • Any method of dry sweeping or shovelling that involves removing asbestos-related dust or debris
  • Requiring workers to put in extra time at asbestos construction sites

4. Wet Method

Apply water frequently while you work with asbestos-containing materials (ACM) and moisten it first to avoid the release of asbestos fibres. It’s crucial to keep dust and debris moist to keep asbestos material contained in one place.

5. Know if the Workplace Contains Asbestos

These days, demolition and restoration projects account for most construction work that poses a risk of asbestos exposure. Besides roofing items, older construction materials are more likely to contain asbestos than new ones.

When there is asbestos in a building, the only people to contact are the owners and homeowners. Owners shall identify ACM and provide notice to anyone who will perform work on the building. No databases keep track of which structures house asbestos. Make inquiries regarding ACM with the building owner to safeguard yourself against exposure.