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Work around asbestos? You have rights

If you work around asbestos or have in the past, you may have concerns about your health in the years to come. It may be helpful to know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has requirements in place to protect workers from dangers from asbestos exposures.

The three standards that OSHA implemented for workers' protection are classified according to the workplace. They are:

Construction: All of the building trades fall into this category, including demolition.

Shipyards: This category includes the construction, maintenance, renovation, repair and demolition of vessels and other asbestos-containing structures in shipyards.

General Industry: The final category covers all other work around asbestos in general industries like the manufacture of goods containing asbestos, clutch and brake repair and maintenance work.

Work sites have to be assessed for asbestos presence, and a determination is made whether there will be airborne fibers generated by certain methods under the three standards.

Monitoring may be necessary to detect any asbestos exposures that exceed permissible exposure limits for workers. In those cases, companies must implement work practices and engineering controls as feasible to keep exposures at acceptable levels.

When these practices and controls fail to ensure workers are protected, companies have to reduce exposures to the lowest achievable levels and provide workers with respiratory gear that meets permissible limits.

Employees have a right to safe working conditions that don't pose risks of serious harm. They can request and review work records of on-the-job accidents and illnesses from hazardous exposures and obtain copies of tests that indicate hazard levels.

They also have a right to initiate an OSHA complaint and request the agency inspect the premises if the workers are aware of violations.

Those with concerns about previous on-the-job asbestos exposures can seek legal guidance for filing damage claims.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Asbestos," accessed Jan. 15, 2016

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