When you’re caught up in an asbestos emergency it can be difficult to think clearly and react appropriately to minimise your own exposure, and that of those around you. Asbestos is a carcinogenic material and has the potential to cause life-threatening disease, so what should you do in the event of an asbestos emergency?
If asbestos fibres are inadvertently released or you unexpectedly come across unidentified materials that could contain asbestos, what are the right steps to take?
What to do in an asbestos emergency
Cease work as soon as you know or suspect that asbestos is present – also warn anyone nearby of the situation. You’ll need to check whether you or your clothing is contaminated with dust or fibres before approaching anyone else, however. Put on respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to limit your exposure to airborne asbestos materials, and stay as still as possible so it doesn’t spread.
Start to deal with the contamination
Use damp rags or other damp fabric to wipe down your clothes – this helps to prevent more fibres and dust becoming airborne. When you can, make sure any affected clothing or rags are disposed of as contaminated waste, take a shower, and wash your hair to remove any remaining asbestos debris.
Isolate the area and inform a supervisor
Put up barriers or seal off the area if possible, and make sure people are aware of the asbestos emergency by displaying ‘potential asbestos contamination’ signs. Anyone already in the vicinity should go outside if possible. Also let your supervisor or site foreman know that asbestos has been released.
Check for dust and fibres on other clothing
Anyone in the area should be checked for asbestos dust and fibres on their clothes and hair. They should be carefully decontaminated where necessary, taking care not to sweep dust and debris around – any contaminated clothing or equipment should be disposed of appropriately.
Take dust and fibre samples
Samples of the debris will need to be tested by a professional to confirm that it is asbestos – if the results are positive, specialist asbestos contractors will also be needed to decontaminate and clean up the area. In an asbestos emergency, licensed contractors must be used to remove asbestos at the scene, and deal with the overall situation.
Officially recording asbestos emergencies
Due to the serious health risk, any emergency asbestos situation must be officially recorded and a note of the date and circumstances added to the health records of all involved. This is because asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, don’t typically manifest until several decades after exposure – in some cases up to 50 or 60 years later.
For more information on what to do in an asbestos emergency, call our highly experienced consultants at Acorn Analytical Services.
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