Exposure to toxic and hazardous substances is one of the dangers of the contracting business. In order to manage and reduce liability issues, job sites should be aware of the types of materials to which they could be exposed, and how to minimize the danger of exposure to these substances. Among the most common hazards in today’s contracting industry are lead and asbestos.
Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos has been a very common building material for decades. Any building constructed up to 1990 is very likely to have asbestos somewhere in the materials. It can be found in insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, gaskets, ductwork, shingles and even in cement work.
Asbestos only really becomes a danger in materials that can dry out and crumble. These materials are known as friable materials. In such cases, fine particles and fibers can get into the air and be inhaled. Such inhalation can result in lung cancer, mesothelioma or other respiratory diseases, often decades after exposure.
Reducing Asbestos Exposure
Protecting yourself from asbestos exposure involves knowing where the material is and how to keep fibers from entering your lungs. If there are materials containing asbestos which are undamaged and you can avoid touching them, let them be. Any materials that may contain asbestos and you are unsure about should be sampled and tested by a lab.
If your crew is not qualified to handle it, use a qualified asbestos abatement firm to remove any friable materials. These companies have the equipment and expertise to remove the danger effectively and safely without exposing your workers or the environment. Such equipment includes respirators, filtered cleaning materials and the right personal protective equipment to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Dangers of Lead
Lead is present in many paints that were used in construction prior to the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. Exposure to lead through inhaling dust or accidentally ingesting paint chips or soil containing the metal can result in lead poisoning.
Long-term exposure to the material results in damage to the brain and nervous system, learning disabilities, behavioral issues, stunted growth, reproductive issues, muscle and joint problems and other brain-related problems.
There is a very good chance that any building constructed before 1980 has lead-based paint. If such paint is still in good condition, it is probably safe to leave it be. The danger comes from chipping, flaking, peeling or cracked paint. If you encounter any of these conditions, call a lead abatement firm to have the paint tested.
When dealing with lead-based paint, thoroughly clean up any flaked or chipped paint. Keep children out of the area. It is best to use the qualified lead abatement firm to remove the material if you do not have the proper training. As with asbestos, such companies have equipment and expertise to get rid of the problem effectively, quickly and safely.
While using outside firms to remove asbestos and lead may create an additional cost for your company, the end result is far preferable to liability issues from illness or injury years down the line. For more information about liability insurance for contractors check out our services and products and feel free to give us a call with any questions you might have.