As part of your electrician training, you will likely cover at least the basics of asbestos awareness and safety. But why is this course of study so important?
While asbestos is no longer used in new construction, this harmful material still exists in many residential and commercial buildings. Buildings constructed before 1973 may contain spray asbestos roofing or insulation, and buildings constructed before 1989 may contain other forms of asbestos.
Additionally, asbestos has never been successfully banned in the United States. This lack of legislation means that some buildings that should have been remediated still have asbestos in them.
Asbestos safety training ensures that you know what to do should you encounter asbestos in the course of your work. This awareness is important for the following reasons.
Better Asbestos Identification
Typically, you can’t tell if a material contains asbestos just by looking at it. Asbestos was molded into many different shapes and painted a variety of colors, preventing simple identification. For this reason, it’s important that contractors who are at an increased risk of exposure know the likely locations of asbestos and what to do when they suspect asbestos.
For example, asbestos often exists in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, and electrical insulation that you may need to handle over the course of an electrical project. Knowing where to expect asbestos allows you to have necessary tests done on suspicious materials right away.
Decreased Risk of Exposure
Better asbestos identification leads to an overall decreased risk of exposure for you and your team members. In most cases, asbestos is a solid, stable material. Asbestos only becomes dangerous after it begins to break apart into pieces small enough to be inhaled.
Accidental exposure to asbestos particles almost always occurs because a worker moved the material without knowing it was asbestos, thereby creating airborne particles.
When you can identify asbestos without touching it, you have the opportunity to have it tested and removed by a trained professional. Additionally, should you ever need to handle asbestos yourself, the ability to identify the material allows you to take vital precautions to protect your health, including wearing a mask to prevent particle inhalation.
Improved Compliance with Regulations
Due to asbestos’ toxicity, the removal, transport, and disposal of the material is highly regulated by the Environmental Health and Safety Department. Often, these regulations are broken by accident when a contractor moves unidentified asbestos.
However, these infractions can still lead to consequences for the contractor and the company that he or she works for. In the case of improper removal, you could be subject to cleanup costs, fines, a state or federal investigation, or even criminal charges for endangerment.
Awareness of the presence and dangers of asbestos helps you and your team better comply with all relevant regulations.
Increased Understanding of Removal
Asbestos removal often must be completed before any other work can be done in the affected area, including any electrical services. Your asbestos safety course may include an overview of the typical removal process.
This information allows you to predict how long removal may take and how removal will affect your project. You can then adjust your schedule to accommodate the removal process while still providing your clients and team members with an accurate estimate of the project duration and cost.
Keep yourself up to date on asbestos regulations as you work to ensure that you can protect the health of your team members, clients, and yourself.
Ready to prepare yourself for a job as an electrician? Register for training from the Independent Electrical Contractors of Greater Cincinnati for asbestos awareness training and other important educational courses.