For years, in North Carolina and throughout the country, asbestos was used in many products, such as tiles, insulation, automotive parts and consumer products. It is now widely known that regular asbestos exposure may result in a fatal asbestos-related disease, like mesothelioma. Therefore, asbestos use is highly regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
OSHA implements standards and regulations designed to protect workers from asbestos. There are specific standards that apply to the general industry, the construction industry and the shipyard industry. Workers in the construction and shipyard industries are at an increased risk of asbestos exposure and these hazards are addressed in industry-specific standards and regulations. However, there are some common protections existing in the standards for all industries.
Employers must ensure that employees are not exposed to asbestos above the permissible exposure limit (PEL). Workplaces must also be assessed to determine if asbestos is present and monitored to detect if asbestos exposure meets PEL. Employers are required to use engineering controls and work practices to bring asbestos exposure down to the PEL or to the lowest possible level with added respiratory protection to meet the PEL. Warning signs must be present in areas with exposures above the PEL. There must also be separate decontamination and lunch areas — no smoking, eating or drinking should take place in areas with asbestos above the PEL.
Exposure monitoring records must be kept for at least 30 years and if workers are required to be provided with medical surveillance, those records must be kept for the duration of the workers’ employment plus 30 years. Workers must also be trained, depending on their workplace exposure and classification, in a timely manner. Workers who suffer from asbestos-related diseases and the families of those who died from it may be entitled to compensation and should seek the counsel of an experienced asbestos litigation attorney.