Safety Corner: Safety at the Forefront of Asbestos Remediation
Safety Corner: Safety at the Forefront of Asbestos Remediation
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Safety Corner: Safety at the Forefront of Asbestos Remediation
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Building owners need to use EPA Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act-accredited asbestos professionals to inspect for, contain and remediate asbestos.

Although asbestos may seem like a health hazard of the past, it remains one of the most common hazardous materials found in industrial and commercial buildings. And while it is relatively safe if undisturbed, exposure to airborne asbestos poses severe health risks, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

"Asbestos used to be seen as an ideal building material because it is resistant to fire and chemicals and does not break down easily," says Eric Wenger, associate industrial hygienist at Burns & McDonnell. "But the health risks far outweigh the benefits of its use."

That's why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and nearly every state, requires an accredited asbestos inspection of all buildings before demolition or renovation, with notification sent to the state. Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the EPA have specific requirements on how building owners, employers and construction workers should handle asbestos remediation.

Building owners need to use EPA Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act-accredited asbestos professionals to inspect for, contain and remediate asbestos. Many states also require asbestos professionals to obtain state licensure. Depending on the building classification and the state, abatement specifications may need to be prepared for proper response actions.

"The only exception for a pre-demolition/ renovation asbestos inspection is if a client has a letter from a licensed engineer or architect stating that to the best of his or her knowledge, no asbestos was specified or used in the construction or in any subsequent renovations of the building," Wenger says. Despite these requirements, all construction workers should know what to do if any material suspected of containing asbestos is discovered during demolition or renovation activities: Stop work immediately, isolate the area and notify a supervisor.

For more information, contact Eric Wenger, 816-822-3894.

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