Safety Focus of the Week: Asbestos Awareness
Asbestos is a fiberous mineral known to cause cancer. Prior to the awareness of its health hazard, asbestos was a common building material, primarily because of its resistance to heat.
Asbestos mining in Vermont is an important part of our history. The Belvidere Mountain mine site once produced nearly all of the asbestos used in the US and was an important part of the Lamoille County economy. I can even remember stopping at the mines during a grade school field trip with an industrial theme – I recall the trip included the Fairbanks Scale Company as well. Since that time, the asbestos industry legacy has literally and figuratively become a deadly cancer. Fortunately, studies have shown that residents near the mines are not any more susceptible to non-occupational asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos was also used in the form of an asbestos-cement (A-C) mixture that was common in underground waterlines. This is likely to be the most common situation in which we encounter asbestos as an excavation contractor. Fortunately, we are safe so long as the pipe is handled properly and not cut in a way that releases the fibers into the work area.
Notify the safety department immediately if you encounter A-C Pipe that needs to be removed or tied into – or if you damage it during the work. Projects that anticipate A-C pipe should include training so that the workers are prepared to assess, manage, handle, and dispose of the A-C pipe. Special tools that break the pipe (combined with water flushing) are available to prevent the release of fibers into the air. A-C pipe should never be cut with high-speed abrasive tools. When tying into an A-C pipe it is best to break the pipe at a coupling and use the exposed pipe end to make up the new joint.