In a recent article, this blog discussed the risks of asbestos exposure to New York workers. As that blog post explained, asbestos was a common building material before its health risks were fully understood. It was eventually discovered, however, that asbestos can cause a dangerous cancer and other health issues for workers who breathe in the fibers let off by the material. With the significant risk to workers’ health, many New Yorkers may wonder what safety precautions must be taken to protect workers from asbestos exposure.

While asbestos is no longer commonly used in building materials, many older structures still contain asbestos. When these buildings undergo renovations or demolitions, New York workers can be exposed to the material. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines several safety measures that need to be taken to keep workers in this situation safe.

First, OHSA has defined a permissible exposure limit for asbestos. When an employee works at or above the PEL — set at 0.1 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter in eight hours — workers must receive safety training explaining how to handle the situation. If it is possible to meet or exceed the PEL, then the employer is responsible for monitoring the asbestos exposure, and for setting certain work practices.

These practices include using appropriate respiratory protection that lowers a worker’s exposure. Warning signs should also be used to alert people to the presence of asbestos. Workers should also be prohibited from eating, drinking or smoking in an area where the PEL has been met. Medical examinations and special hygiene areas should also be provided for workers exposed to the PEL.

When a New York worker suffers a workplace illness, like those caused by asbestos exposure, the injured worker can have legal rights. While this blog post cannot provide legal advice, an attorney can make sure that a worker is fully compensated for a workplace illness or injury.