Respirator Fit Testing and Asbestos: Getting Safer

A guide to identifying & removing asbestos

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respirator fit testing and asbestos safety

Respirator fit testing isn’t just an OSHA obligation, it’s a way to protect your workers from airborne hazards. The N95’s that many workers use isn’t much to them if they don’t fit.

While Mobile Health works with many hospital staff, we also work with many construction and contracting organizations to provide them with respirator fit testing solutions. The following article deals with asbestos, a common airborne hazard that many contractors deal with. If you need to get your employees fit tested in order to assure their safety from asbestos and other airborne hazards, contact mobile health for a free consultation below.

Respirator Fit Testing

There was a time when asbestos, whose health risks were unknown, was a common home-building material.  It had a reputation for being durable, cheap, and a good insulator. As a result, many homes that still exist today have asbestos made products still within them. It was only later that asbestos was linked to hazards such as mesothelioma.

Many contractors today are often faced with exposure to asbestos in older houses that they work on. In order for employees to be safe,  it is important to know how to identify and safely remove suspected asbestos materials, and the importance of respirator fit testing.

General Asbestos Facts

When left undisturbed, asbestos-materials do not pose an immediate health risk. But when airborne, the asbestos can release fibers can be a severe risk to your well being. The fibers are generally airborne due to asbestos-containing materials that are disrupted, disturbed, removed improperly, scraped, drilled, sawed, sanded, cut, or torn. Filtering face piece respirators that filter out particles can help to prevent unnecessary exposure.

Why to get respirator fit testing is important

Unless it is labeled, you can’t ascertain if a material contains asbestos just be looking at it.  If you are unsure, it is safe to assume that it contains asbestos and leave it certified handlers. But if the material must be handled in a way that will cause the asbestos fibers to become airborne, it is crucial to have a respirator on if you think that you may be in contact with airborne asbestos fibers. That’s why it’s so important to get a proper respirator fit testing system in place. Should employees not have a tight fit on their respirators may be exposed to harmful atmospheric hazards.

What if Asbestos is found?

A safe rule to go by: If a building material in your home is not damaged and will not be handled in any way, then the asbestos is generally not harmful.  Therefore, if asbestos-containing materials are in a stable condition and will not be disrupted (for example, by home remodeling) then they will not release the health-threatening airborne asbestos fibers.

However, if you suspect a material has asbestos, don’t touch it just to be on the safe side.  It is important not to rub, strike, or handle the asbestos material.  Even sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming asbestos debris is not recommended.  If you have reason to believe the asbestos has been exposed to air flow or intense vibration, then the risk of harmful airborne asbestos is heightened.  Water damage and signs of wear are of equal concern.

If you do not have a qualified & certified asbestos professional on staff, is suggested as well as following the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for dealing with asbestos.

Asbestos Inspectors & Contractors

If done incorrectly, asbestos sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Therefore, taking samples yourself is not recommended and can be extremely harmful to your health should your organization not have an asbestos professional on hand.

Using an Asbestos Inspectors is a smart idea as they will investigate a property to take samples of suspected asbestos materials for testing. Professional Asbestos Contractors will do the actual removing of the asbestos material.

Note: While some states & localities require the asbestos professionals to be trained & accredited, federal law does not have specific requirement.  However, it is recommended that you hire trained & accredited asbestos professionals for the safety of your home & family.

Asbestos Inspectors & Contractors are also required to follow safety precautions.  One precaution they must take is wearing a respirator mask during any work where they are exposed to airborne hazards. The airborne hazards are so dangerous that, contractors undergo annual respirator fit testing to make sure their mask will prevent them from breathing in any asbestos fibers.