Asbestos Awareness Training Brochure

Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring family of minerals formed by combinations of magnesium and silicon. Asbestos was applied for decorative and acoustical purposes in buildings and was later applied as insulation coating to protect structural steel during fires.

Although asbestos has proved to be a very useful material for a wide variety of products, it was discovered that certain diseases resulted from exposure to asbestos fibers that were inhaled and trapped in the lungs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a standard to protect workers who may be exposed to asbestos directly or indirectly through their normal work activities. Under the Ohio Public Employment Risk Reduction Program, which adopted the OSHA standards, Miami University is required to comply with the asbestos standard. The forms of asbestos covered by the standard include:

  • Chrysotile, or white asbestos, which was used in such materials as insulation, fireproofing, soundproofing, floor tile, and ceiling tile.
  • Amosite, or brown asbestos, which is in high-friction applications such as brake shoes and clutches.
  • Crocidolite, or blue asbestos, which is not as common as the other two forms.
  • Compounds of "asbestiform" minerals, which bond chemically with asbestos.

In addition to protecting workers that work directly with asbestos, the standard also cover workers who may come in contact with asbestos-containing materials in buildings such as maintenance personnel, building service workers, roofing workers, and trade workers (e.g., electricians, plumbers, HVAC, etc.).

Health Effects of Asbestos

Research indicates that inhaling asbestos fibers can cause disabling respiratory disease and various types of cancers. Asbestos exposure has been shown to cause:

  • Cancer of the lungs, larynx, stomach, and gastrointestinal tract.
  • Mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the thin membrane lining of the chest and abdomen.
  • Asbestosis, a chronic lung ailment that can produce shortness of breath, permanent lung damage, and increase the risk of dangerous lung infections.

Symptoms of these diseases generally do not appear for 20+ years after initial exposure.

Smoking can further increase the health risks from asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers may irritate the lungs, making them even more sensitive to the risk of cancer from cigarette smoke. Smokers who have worked with asbestos face as much as 90 times the risk of cancer as non-smokers. If you are a smoker who works with asbestos, and you stop smoking, your chances of getting lung cancer can be reduced by 50 percent in just 5 years.

Potential Locations

Asbestos can be found in many places in a building. Some of them include:

  • Thermal System Insulation (TSI) on tanks, ducts, boilers, and hot water pipes
  • Sprayed-on or troweled-on surfacing materials on ceilings and walls
  • Resilient asphalt and vinyl flooring Suspended ceiling tiles
  • Lab hoods
  • Fireproof drywall
  • Fireproof drapes and curtains
  • Roofing felts and shingles
  • Exterior siding shingles
  • Sprayed-on fireproofing on metal beams and columns
  • High-temperature gaskets and valve insulation

Hazard Communication

You can be at risk of asbestos exposure if you work in a building that contains the material. Your exposure risk increases if you perform work in an area that contains friable† asbestos, perform work near a construction or renovation area which contains asbestos, or perform maintenance or custodial activities in areas containing asbestos. Therefore, you need to be aware of the presence and location of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM) within the building(s) you work.

Miami University maintains a record of the presence, location, and quantity of ACM in campus buildings. Actual or potential asbestos hazards may be communicated in one or more of the following ways:

  1. Warning labels. Labels may be placed directly on building fixtures, such as pipe insulation or utility equipment in maintenance rooms to alert building occupants of the presence of asbestos. If you can’t see a label, DO NOT assume that the material is asbestos-free. Certain materials, such as asbestos-containing ceiling tiles or floor tiles within offices or classrooms, will not necessarily have labels.
  2. Warning signs. Warning signs are placed at all entrances to regulated work areas to prevent accidental or unauthorized entry. Only authorized personnel wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment may enter a regulated area.
  3. Building Surveys. ES&RM maintains a library of all identified ACM and Presumed-ACM (PACM) in campus buildings. You can reference this information in ES&RM (during normal business hours) or at the Physical Facilities Department service desk. This information is not given out over the phone.

Recognizing Friable Asbestos

Exposure standards are based on the kind of asbestos work you do, the type of ACM, and the likelihood that its fibers will break loose and become airborne, also known as its friability.† Friable asbestos can be reduced to powder by hand pressure when it is dry. Sprayed-on asbestos insulation falls into this category.

Almost all asbestos products may in time become hazardous, especially if disturbed. Although all ACM may release fibers when disturbed, certain minerals are known to be more easily damaged or suffer more deterioration, and thus cause higher airborne fiber levels than others.

Non-friable asbestos is usually found bonded into other materials (e.g., floor tile). Its fibers are harder to break down into powder but can still be released by cutting, grinding, or sanding.

Damage and Deterioration

If you work in a building that contains installed asbestos products, be alert to detect any deterioration of ACM and report it to ES&RM.

TSI and surfacing ACM are potentially more friable, are much more common, and have more maintenance and repair activities performed on them than other ACM. Every removal activity involving ACM is capable of releasing friable airborne fibers at hazardous levels. Always avoid any contact with ACM that disturbs its position or arrangement, renders it friable, or generates visible debris.

Visibly damaged, degraded, or friable ACM in the vicinity are always indicators that surface debris or dust could be contaminated with asbestos. Assume such dust or debris contains asbestos fibers. Examples of damage or activity that can cause fiber release from ACM:

  • Drilling
  • Cutting
  • Sanding
  • Lifting, moving, or otherwise disturbing ceiling tile
  • Abrasion
  • Impact from other objects
  • Weathering
  • Vibration
  • Fans and blowers
  • Chemical spills, leaks, or fumes

Fiber Release Episodes

Asbestos fibers pose little hazard if they remain bonded together. However, disturbing asbestos-containing material may release fibers small enough to be inhaled.

If a ACM or PACM material is disturbed to the extent that fibers could have been released, immediately leave the area and report the release to the Maintenance Safety Coordinator via the Physical Facilities Service Desk.

Reducing exposure potential when working with or around known asbestos-containing materials

If your duties require you to perform maintenance or custodial work around installed asbestos products, learn and follow these general precautions:

  • Never cut through pipe insulation.
  • Never drill holes or hammer nails in ceilings or surfaced walls.
  • Don't remove ceiling tiles or light fixtures from suspended ceiling grids.
  • Never install curtains, drapes, or blinds in a way that damages any potential ACM.
  • Try to avoid scraping floor tiles, walls, or ductwork when moving furniture.
  • Never remove ventilation system filters or shake the filters to remove dust.
  • Don’t dust, sweep up debris or vacuum carpets in areas that may contain asbestos-contaminated waste.
  • If you find any material that you suspect may contain asbestos, notify ES&RM.
  • Heed the labels on asbestos products or asbestos waste that warn against causing dust or breathing airborne fibers.
  • Observe the following care measures for asbestos-containing flooring material:

Do not sand asbestos-containing floor material.
Use low abrasion pads at speeds lower than 300 rpm and wet methods for stripping finishes.
Perform burnishing or dry buffing only on asbestos-containing flooring which has sufficient finish so that the pad cannot contact the asbestos-containing material.
Never sand asbestos-containing flooring material.

For More Information

If you need additional information or have questions regarding the asbestos program at Miami University, feel free to contact the Environmental Safety and Risk Management Office at (513) 529-2829.