Not that long ago, the only thing protecting workers from asbestos exposure was the conscience of their employer. But since 1970, things have changed for the better. At least on paper.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for administering and enforcing the federal OSH Act of 1970. OSHA regulations set out uniform national standards for workplace safety and health practices throughout the country. There are standards for hazard assessments, employee safety and health and other employee rights.
OSHA standards are rules that describe steps that employers must take to protect their employees from hazards like asbestos exposure. There are OSHA standards for construction work, agriculture, maritime operations, and general industry standards which apply to most worksites. These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment, and require employers to monitor hazards.
It’s an employer’s duty to train employees about the hazards of asbestos and the need for safeguards. OSHA also requires that employers monitor asbestos exposure, provide respiratory protection, and alert workers to its hazards.
Because asbestos fibers can be released into the air during activities that disturb asbestos-containing materials and because asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma and other lung diseases, there are strict compliance standards regulating asbestos.
The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for asbestos is 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air (f/cc) as an eight-hour, time-weighted average (TWA). Employee exposure is also limited to no more than 1 f/cc averaged over 30 minutes.
Detailed asbestos compliance standards for general industry can be found on OSHA’s website regarding activities such as brake and clutch repair, custodial work, and the manufacture of asbestos-containing products. They also cover construction, renovation, and demolition of structures containing asbestos.
If you are being exposed to asbestos at your worksite, you can file a complaint online; download the form and mail or fax it to the nearest OSHA office; or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Written complaints signed by a worker or their representative and submitted to a local OSHA office are more likely to result in an on-site OSHA inspection.
You have the right to tell OSHA not to let your employer know who filed the complaint. It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or discriminate in any way against a worker for filing a complaint or using other OSHA rights.
If you think you are being subjected to asbestos exposure, contact OSHA. If you develop mesothelioma, Kazan Law is here for you. But we would prefer that you never need our services. Be well.