Asbestos has a strong reputation for existing in old buildings before the dangerous consequences were fully known. Although toxic, it is actually a naturally occurring mineral that is invisible to the naked eye. It was beneficial to buildings because of its strength and heat resistance.
Asbestos can sit behind walls in buildings without causing any human damage, however if the asbestos fiber is disturbed, it can be inhaled without being noticed, and become trapped within the lungs. The consequences of this can be disastrous. Asbestos trapped in the lungs can cause chronic lung disease and has been linked with many cancers. This can happen even decades after the original exposure.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has outlined protections for workers depending on the industry that they work in. In general, all workers are protected when it comes to general exposure. Shipyards have standards designed for the protection of workers that are working with the demolition and alteration of structures containing asbestos. Construction workers, generally the most exposed, are legally protected from the construction, maintenance and renovation of structures containing asbestos.
These protections demand the regular assessment and monitoring structures to find out whether they contain asbestos. Areas of work should be decontaminated, and all workers and managers should be trained in safety regarding asbestos, among other things.
If you believe that you have been exposed to asbestos at work and you are not sure what to do, you should seek trusted guidance from a legal advisor.
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Asbestos,” accessed Sep. 15, 2017