The backbone of any building, public or private, is the workers who maintain it and keep it clean. This can include custodians, maintenance workers, and janitors. However, the tasks performed in these occupations can sometimes put the workers at risk for exposure to asbestos. That can lead to debilitating conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Asbestos can be found in many different parts of a building. The most common use for asbestos was as an insulating material. However, it’s also been known to be found in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, shingles, roofing materials, joint compound, and drywall. Additionally, there are many more products in which asbestos was used to manufacture.
The danger of asbestos is only present when the fibrous chemical is released into the air. Insulation was one of the most prevalent materials to release asbestos into the air. The less well-known materials such as tiles or joint compound don’t present a problem until they are damaged. Once that happens, the fibers may then be released. It’s especially important to be aware of the presence of these materials if replacing them.
Custodians and Asbestos
Custodians and other workers who maintain buildings are often at risk of coming into contact with asbestos during the routine duties of their jobs. Cleaning or repairing furnaces, heating, or cooling systems is one of the most common tasks where asbestos exposure can threaten custodial workers. Work performed on systems like these may end up releasing hazardous asbestos fibers into the air and ultimately the worker’s lungs.
Those who are responsible for certain facilities are often tasked with inspecting the buildings to discover the presence of asbestos in the first place. Therefore, they may be the first to be exposed to the material. In addition, older material may be in a crumbled or powdered state due to age. Once that happens, the material is known as friable. Friable material is the most dangerous as it presents a serious risk of releasing asbestos fibers into the air.
It’s important to know that laws mandate that anyone inspecting, handling, or removing asbestos must receive special training. There is a license required to certify an understanding of methods that reduce exposure so as not to endanger the worker or anyone else nearby. Often special equipment, such as clothing and masks, is used to protect those working near asbestos, reducing the risks for these individuals.