When humans inhale or ingest asbestos fibers, the material can get trapped in the nose, throat, or digestive tract, which can cause serious health problems, such as respiratory diseases and cancer. That’s why it’s extremely important to ensure your property is free from asbestos. In this blog, we will discuss what asbestos is, where it can be found, and how you can protect yourself from it.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of tough fibrous minerals used to make products strong, long-lasting, and fire-resistant. Asbestos is most dangerous when it’s friable, which means the material can easily crumble in your hands. While in this state, asbestos releases harmful fibers into the air.

Although many countries around the world have banned the use and installation of asbestos, Canada hasn’t completely banned asbestos yet. Even though it’s not as commonly used in buildings nowadays, stockpiles of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM) continued to be used in the construction of buildings well into the early 1990s. Therefore, if your building was built before 1990, it is likely to contain ACM.

Unfortunately, some organizations in the construction and commercial sectors continue to use asbestos in products to this day. These products include, but are not limited to, cement and plaster, industrial furnaces and heating systems, building insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, house siding, car and truck brake pads, and vehicle transmission components, such as clutches.

Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos is most-commonly found in drywall mudding compounds, vinyl sheets, tile flooring, insulation, and pipe wraps. Unfortunately, you can’t identify asbestos unless a sample testing is performed. To get a sample tested, hire a professional and/or specialist to gather the sample, and then they can test it at a certified lab for ACM. Older commercial and residential buildings built prior to 1990 are more susceptible to ACM due to the materials used to construct the building.

If it’s discovered that asbestos removal is required at your building, the process may cause business interruption. The process of identifying asbestos includes a risk assessment, site control and containment, demolition, and thorough cleaning or reinstallation of ceilings, walls, and floors. Follow the proper precautions to keep your employees and customers safe and healthy against the toxins from asbestos fibers.

How can I be exposed to asbestos?

You can be exposed to asbestos when a building is being renovated or demolished. Small asbestos fibers can be released into the air during the following activities:

  • Disturbing or removing insulation that contains asbestos, including insulation around hot water pipes and tanks.
  • Removing or disturbing roofing shingles and felt, or siding containing asbestos.
  • Sanding, breaking apart, or scarping vinyl asbestos floor tiles.
  • Breaking apart soundproofing ceiling tiles containing asbestos.
  • Sanding or disturbing plaster containing asbestos, including acoustical plaster.
  • Sawing, drilling, or smoothing rough edges of asbestos materials.
  • Sanding or scraping older surface treatments containing asbestos, such as roofing compounds like tar paper, spackling, sealants, paint, putty, caulking, and drywall.

Some car parts also contain asbestos. In some cases, you may be exposed to dust containing asbestos when changing brakes or replacing a transmission clutch.

What do I do if my property has asbestos?

If your sample comes back positive for asbestos, the first step you should take is to hire a specialized inspector that is trained in identifying and keeping an inventory of all the locations of asbestos in your building. The inspector should be able to determine the conditions and types of asbestos and will most likely collect additional samples for testing at an accredited lab.  The inspector can help you with a control plan and provide you with next steps.

During this time, you may need to relocate your operations or shut down your business temporarily. Send out communications to employees and stakeholders and remember to post safe work procedures and emergency contact information in your building before, during, and after any work is done. This information is vital as it will allow employees, customers, visitors, and contractors to stay informed and safe on your premises.

After demolition is completed, ensure that you receive written confirmation that air clearance was performed, and that the area is safe for occupancy. Remember to always keep a copy of any reports from the inspector at your job site, as you may need it for your records in the future.

Protect yourself and your business

No matter how careful you are, you can’t always control what happens to your business. That’s why having the right protection in place is extremely important and beneficial. To learn more about protecting yourself and your business, visit our Business Insurance page today.

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.