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Asbestos: Still a Threat Today

Since the dangers of asbestos became evident, government regulators have stepped in to keep workers safe from developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has several standards related to asbestos use and workplace exposure. If you’ve been exposed and become ill, it’s important to understand your rights. 

What is Asbestos and How is It Dangerous?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to corrosion and heat. Products made from the material have been created for things like floor tiling, pipe insulation, vehicle brakes, boiler insulation, building materials, and more. Asbestos includes the mineral fibers amosite, crocidolite, chrysotile, tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite. 

Significant exposure to asbestos often occurred in industries like shipbuilding and repair, construction, energy, forestry, manufacturing, and auto repair. 

Asbestos has been recognized for decades as a known health hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and OSHA. Any asbestos exposure is considered dangerous as it can lead to the buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs. Decades after exposure, a worker can be diagnosed with a serious form of cancer called mesothelioma. 

Even though asbestos has been largely outlawed, the threat of exposure and illness remains. According to a recent article by EHS Today, nearly two out of every five Americans have worked in high-risk occupations where asbestos was present. The latency period for asbestos-related cancer can be anywhere from 20-50 years, meaning it can take this long after exposure for systems of an asbestos-related disease to appear. 

OSHA Asbestos Regulations and Standards

Asbestos is so dangerous that OSHA has addressed workplace safety with three different sets of standards that address it. These standards apply to all workplaces, including those considered at higher risk for asbestos exposure, such as shipyards, auto repair shops, and construction sites. 

OSHA standards related to asbestos include the General Industry Toxic and Hazardous Substances Standard (1910 Subpart Z), the Maritime Toxic and Hazardous Substances Standard (1915 Subpart Z), and the Construction Toxic and Hazardous Substances Standard (29 CFR 1926 Subpart Z). OSHA’s worksite protections for asbestos include:

Assessment and Monitoring

Workplaces are required to determine if asbestos fibers could become airborne at a job site. If they will, the employer must perform routine monitoring to ensure minimum exposure levels.

Exposure Limits

According to OSHA, the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for airborne asbestos is no higher than 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter per 8-hour shift. Over a 30-minute period, the permissible excursion limit (EL) is less than 1 asbestos fiber per cubic centimeter.

Safe and Separate Break Areas

When employees must work around asbestos, employers must provide a safe and separate break area that includes hygiene stations.

Personal Protective Equipment and Hazard Communication

Employees must be trained in how to work safely around asbestos and be provided with appropriate PPE, such as air-purifying respirators. 


Employers are required to keep copies of surveys and tests documenting asbestos levels and track employee medical conditions that could be related to asbestos exposure for at least 30 years. 

These standards are designed to protect workers in all 50 states. Also, OSHA has approved additional regulations in 29 states

Your Rights as a Worker According to OSHA

According to OSHA regulations, every worker has a right to a safe workplace that doesn’t place them at risk of illness or injury. If your employer is subject to OSHA regulations, you also have the right to:

  • Regular information and training about workplace hazards and how you can prevent dangerous exposure to things like asbestos
  • Proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety gear
  • Access to records related to hazards identified at a job site, as well as any past work-related injuries or illnesses
  • File a confidential complaint with OSHA and request that the agency inspect your workplace to verify any safety issues without the fear of retaliation

If you have concerns about asbestos exposure at your current workplace and believe your employer is not following asbestos standards, you may wish to report the matter to OSHA. Researchers also suggest that anyone who worked with asbestos in the past, including their household members, who are ages 50 or older, get screened for asbestos scarring. 

Learn More About Asbestos Exposure and OSHA Standards

OSHA’s standards were created to protect workers’ health and safety. Unfortunately, many workers have been exposed to harmful materials like asbestos, placing them in danger of developing serious health-related conditions. 

Most U.S. employers are subject to OSHA standards, meaning you have the right to expect protections if you’ve worked for a major employer in the U.S. If you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and would like more information about your rights, OSHA Injury Attorney can help.