There are some jobs that require workers to handle or be in the presence of unsafe materials. This exposure can be all but unavoidable. But when workers are exposed to a toxic substance or dangerous product at work, it is critical that they have access to protective equipment that can keep them safe.
When working with asbestos, for example, workers can benefit significantly when they have and wear protective clothing. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers are required to provide this clothing to employees who work in environments with higher-than-permissible levels of asbestos.
The protective clothing that should be provided includes:
- Work suits
- Eye protection
- Hats or other types of head coverings
- Respirators, in some cases
These items provide a critical amount of protection because they form a layer between the toxic fiber and the person, making it more difficult for the asbestos to make contact with a person’s skin, eyes, hands and mouth.
However, it is not enough to just protect workers during an active job. Once work is completed, this clothing must be properly removed and cleaned so that the asbestos dust and fibers aren’t tracked around or re-released into the air. It is also important to regularly inspect the protective clothing to make sure there are no holes or tears that could make the equipment vulnerable or ineffective.
Workers have the right to work in a safe environment and receive adequate protections from hazards in the workplace. Those who are not protected could end up getting very sick as a result of toxic exposure. Employers who fail to provide this gear could face serious fines from OSHA and potential legal claims by victims who have developed asbestos-related illnesses.