Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. Asbestos has been used in the manufacture of insulation, fire-proofing materials and building materials (e.g., floor and ceiling tiles, transite wall panels and wall board joint compound) and friction materials (e.g., automotive brake pads and clutches).
There are six naturally occurring mineral forms of asbestos which are sorted into two major types.
Amphibole asbestos group contains: amosite ("brown" or "grey" asbestos), crocidolite ("blue" asbestos), tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite.
Serpentine asbestos group contains one type: chrysotile ("white" asbestos).
95% of the asbestos that was used in manufacturing in the United States was of the chrysotile type.
What are the health hazards of asbestos?
Occupational exposure to asbestos can result in asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a chronic inflammation and scarring of the lungs caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart.
The OSH Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for asbestos is 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter (0.1 f/cc) of air as an 8 hour time-weighted average (TWA). In addition, the employer must ensure that during any 30 minute sampling period no employee is exposed above 1.0 f/cc as averaged concentration. This additional exposure limit is referred to as the Excursion Limit (EL).
What are the physical hazards of asbestos?
Because asbestos is chemically inert and exists as a mineral, there are no known physical hazards associated with it use.
Is there a special emphasis program associated with this topic?
Occupational exposure to asbestos falls within the OSH Division health hazards special emphasis program.
What can I do to protect myself?
Employees working with asbestos-containing materials (ACM) or materials presumed to contain asbestos must be trained by their employer about the hazards of asbestos and how they might become exposed to airborne asbestos fibers through their job duties. They must be provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (e.g., Tyvek suits, respirators) and engineering controls (e.g., exhaust ventilation through HEPA filtration) to maintain exposure to or below the PEL. Whenever respiratory protection is required, the employer must also implement a respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of the respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134. In addition, all construction work that involves asbestos-containing material or presumed asbestos-containing material must be supervised by a competent person who has received asbestos training in addition to that required for asbestos-workers.
What resources are available to employers?
Training and Outreach Services
Presentations that may be applicable include hazard communication, respiratory protection, and personal protective equipment.
In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. The following pre-recorded webinars are also available to assist with training; respiratory protection, health hazards: special emphasis programs and hazard communication.
Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).
Safety and Health Programs
Example programs applicable to occupational exposure to asbestos and can be customized to fit individual workplaces include hazard communication program, respiratory protection program, hazardous chemicals and the PPE hazard assessment.
A-Z Safety and Health Topics
Additional resources can be found on the A-Z topics pages for respiratory protection, hazard communication and personal protective equipment.
The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.
What standards apply?
OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to asbestos in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic.
29 CFR 1910.1001 - general industry
29 CFR 1915.1001 - maritime, shipyard employment
29 CFR 1926.1101 - construction
In addition, the following standards may also apply to employee exposure to asbestos:
29 CFR 1910.132 - personal protective equipment, general requirements - general industry
29 CFR 1910.134 - respiratory protection - general industry, maritime and construction
29 CFR 1910.1020 - access to employee exposure and medical records - general industry, maritime and construction
29 CFR 1910.1200 - hazard communication - general industry, maritime and construction
Other Applicable Standards
The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.
Where can I learn more?
Industry Guide 48 - OSHA Construction Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to occupational exposure to asbestos in construction.
Industry Guide 49 - OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to occupational exposure to asbestos in general industry.
Industry Guide 53, OSHA Shipyard Employment Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training highlights the requirements of standards related to occupational exposure to asbestos in shipyard employment.
Compliance Directive: CPL 02-02-063, Inspection Procedures for Occupational Exposure to Asbestos Final Rule 29 CFR Parts 1910.1001, 1926.1101, and 1915.1001, establishes enforcement policy and provides explanation of the standard to ensure uniform enforcement.
Operational Procedures Notice: OPN 135, Health Hazards Special Emphasis Program, establishes enforcement guidance for inspections of work places where occupational exposure to the following specific air contaminants is, or may be, present: asbestos, lead, hexavalent chromium, isocyanates and respirable crystalline silica.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-707-7876.