Respirators are probably the most important piece of personal protective equipment used in the removal of asbestos. In addition, workers must also protect their skin and eyes. For these reasons employees must wear disposable coveralls, gloves, foot covering, and head covering as well as protective eyewear.
Protective clothing needs to be put on before entering the regulated area and removed in a decontamination area when leaving the work area. The decontamination system is constructed in 3 or 5 stage configurations including a “dirty” area, then a wash area with a shower, and finally a clean area.
In all States, workers must maintain current certifications in the form of a State license, approved training, a respirator fit test, and medical examination to ensure that the worker is healthy and fit to wear a respirator and perform the work. All of these requirements must be updated every year. The respirator fit test is required in accordance with OSHA standards for worker protection. The fit test must absolutely coincide with the make, model, and size of the respirator being worn. If for any reason the worker switches any of these factors they must have a new fit test.
According to OSHA regulations workers are required to participate in a medical surveillance program. The medical surveillance program includes both initial and annual exams for as long as the worker participates in the previously stated conditions. Initially, medical requirements are comprised of a comprehensive medical questionnaire and history, a comprehensive medical evaluation, pulmonary function test, as well as a chest x-ray and interpretation. After the initial exam, the annual update only calls for an abbreviated questionnaire, medical evaluation, pulmonary test, and only every 2-5 years does another x-ray need to be taken. Copies of these medical documents must be kept for 30 years after the last date of employment. These results also need to be made available to employees and authorized representatives upon request.
These medical precautions are very important and have been implemented to ensure the health and safety of asbestos workers.