Asbestos in the Small Business Workplace 101

Asbestos exposure can cause a wide range of respiratory conditions. These conditions include respiratory tract cancer, asbestosis, pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers, and more. According to the Department of Health and Human Services; National Institutes of Health, occupational exposure increases the risks of negative health results. The U.S. Department of LaborOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states, “All asbestos fiber types, including the most commonly used form of asbestos, chrysotile, causes mesothelioma in humans.”

Which Industries Carry Higher Risks of Asbestos Exposure?

Some industries are more vulnerable than others when it comes to asbestos risks. Small businesses, where asbestos related health issues or exposures commonly arise include:

  • Constructions Businesses
  • Heating and Cooling Repair Services
  • Automotive Repair Shops
  • Roofing
  • Demolition Businesses
  • Janitorial Services (in buildings containing asbestos)
  • Manufacturing Businesses (that make products containing asbestos)

How Can Small Businesses Address Asbestos?

As a small business owner, you want to protect the people who work for you. You’re also legally required to do so. Understand that there is no such thing as a safe level of exposure when it comes to asbestos or asbestos fiber. Train your workers on this important detail.

Now, it’s time to take actions, like these, to make your small business a safer place for your employees.

  • Properly train employees who work with and around asbestos.
  • Provide employees with protective respirators when necessary.
  • Keep your workspaces properly ventilated.
  • Monitor employee exposure to asbestos daily.
  • Post signs and instructions warning of asbestos exposure in any area where asbestos-related tasks are performed.
  • Provide medical exams for workers exposed to high asbestos levels.
  • Require workers to wear protective clothing such as gloves, foot coverings, coveralls, goggles, and face shields when working with asbestos (have them remove these items before leaving as some cases suspect exposure related to fibers coming home with workers on their clothing and in their vehicles).
  • Provide showers and similar post exposure safeguards.

It’s also extremely important, no matter how small your small business happens to be, to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for all employees who are exposed, even minimally, to asbestos. You are responsible for your employees and the materials they are exposed to while on the job.

Workers’ compensation insurance also helps to protect your business from litigation by

employees, former employees, and their families. Knowing the facts about asbestos in the workplace helps you create a safer workplace for all your employees and for the future of your business.