What Do I Do if My Employer Isn’t Following OSHA Asbestos Standards?
Exposure to asbestos may cause cancer or other serious diseases. When products containing asbestos are moved or otherwise disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers can escape into the air, where they can be breathed into the lungs. Usually, the risk of getting sick from asbestos depends on how often someone is exposed to asbestos fibers and how many fibers are in the air. Although people can be exposed to asbestos that is in their homes or in the environment, people who work with asbestos often have the greatest risk of cancer. That’s because they may be exposed to high concentrations of asbestos fibers day in and day out, sometimes for years or decades.
Because asbestos can be so dangerous to workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a set of standards dealing specifically with asbestos in the workplace.
If you are a worker whose employer is not following the OSHA asbestos standards, you can file a complaint with OSHA, or you can talk to an experienced asbestos attorney to find out more about your legal rights.
What Are the OSHA Asbestos Standards?
OSHA standards are rules that set out what employers are legally required to do to keep workplaces safe. OSHA has separate standards for asbestos in shipyards, in construction, and in other industries.
These standards provide limits for how much asbestos fiber can be in the air. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) tells how much asbestos fiber can be in the air on average over an eight-hour day. The excursion limit (EL) applies to how much fiber can be in the air for any 30-minute period. Employers are responsible for making sure that workers are not exposed to concentrations of asbestos fibers that are above either of these permissible exposure limits.
The OSHA asbestos standards require employers to assess and monitor the workplace for asbestos concentration. The standards give specific timeframes for how often employers have to do this.
If the level of asbestos has the potential to be over the legal limits, then employers have to take steps to protect workers. They must:
- Try to get the levels of asbestos down below the legal limits. If that’s not possible, they should get the levels as low as possible and provide workers with protective gear.
- Post signs in areas where the exposure is above the limits.
- Prohibit eating, smoking, and drinking in those areas.
- Have separate areas for lunch and decontamination.
- Train workers who are exposed to asbestos.
- Require medical examinations for workers exposed to asbestos.
- Keep records on exposure levels and medical exams for at least 30 years.
Your Rights as a Worker
If you are a worker, you have a right to a workplace where you don’t have to risk serious harm. You also have the right to get training and information about dangers in the workplace and how to avoid them, and about OSHA safety standards. You have the right to review certain records and test results. You also have the right to file a confidential complaint with OSHA. In some situations, you may have the right to refuse to do dangerous work.
Filing a Complaint With OSHA Because of Asbestos Exposure
If you believe that you are being exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos, or if you think your employer is not following the OSHA asbestos standards, you can file a complaint with OSHA. OSHA will not reveal your identity. After you file a complaint, OSHA will come out to do an on-site inspection.
If the danger is so urgent that there is not enough time to wait for OSHA to make an inspection, then you may have the right to refuse to do work that will expose you to a dangerous condition. That right is legally protected in certain situations. You must first ask your employer to eliminate the danger, if that is possible, and your employer must fail to do so.
Contact an Asbestos Lawyer
The OSHA asbestos standards are complicated and very detailed. If you want to find out more about what the standards require, you can look at the OSHA website or call OSHA for more information. You could also talk to an attorney who has experience with asbestos litigation.
If you or a loved one have gotten sick, and you believe that may have been because of past exposure to asbestos, an asbestos attorney may be able to help. At the Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer law firm, we are committed to helping workers who have suffered because of exposure to asbestos at their workplaces.
Call us at 1-800-535-1797 to find out more. We would be glad to talk with you and evaluate your case. If you do have a good case, you may be eligible for payment for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call us today to find out.
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