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Exposure to asbestos can present a serious health risk if incorrectly protected or not protected during the exposure. Many countries have identified the asbestos risk and implemented measures to reduce this risk. South Africa like a few other countries has banned mining , manufacturing and sale of asbestos and products containing asbestos unless special permission is obtained from the Government. This ban occurred in 2005 and even today some people are selling asbestos products. The ban occurred but the Asbestos Regulations framed under the Occupational Health and Safety Act did not alter to accommodate the change and especially that most work would now involve management of existing asbestos and products containing asbestos and removal or abatement of asbestos or asbestos containing material.

Managing asbestos material was poorly described in the Asbestos Regulations and those involved were provided little guidance. The asbestos removal had some requirements in the Asbestos Regulations but allowed these employees to be exposed to a health risk. The Occupational Exposure Limit in the Asbestos Regulations was 0.2f/cc and this limit is not adequate for employee protection. The American Conference of Governmental Hygienists a world recognised body recommended a limit of 0.1 f/cc in 1994 in their Threshold Limit Value Booklet. Their research and others USA OHSA identified even at this Limit (0.1f/cc) three ( 3) % of those exposed and not adequately protected can suffer from asbestos related diseases . South Africa has an Occupational Exposure Limit of 0.2f/cc implemented in 1994. At this level 6-8% of those exposed could be affected.

In January 2018 the Department of Labour published the Draft Asbestos Abatement Regulations. 
The proposed OEL in this draft is the same OEL as the existing Asbestos Regulations and by now most persons should recognise that at existing OEL (0.2f/cc) a health risk occurs or could occur to those exposed.
The primary purpose of this Occupational health and safety legislation is to protect employees and other person’s health from exposure to a risk in this case an asbestos risk.

If the existing work environment or any other environment has asbestos fibres in the air at the SA current OEL on a daily basis a significant health risk occurs and the existing controls cannot be considered adequate. The current situation is management of existing asbestos or abatement and not working with asbestos. Therefore releases of asbestos fibres at or above the OEL should not be allowed.
No exposure above the existing OEL is acceptable or can be considered to be adequately controlled. Today employees do not work with asbestos and the existing asbestos should not present a daily risk if no work occurs.

Should the asbestos fibre level in air exceed the existing OEL (0.2f/cc) it should be unacceptable and the employer, owner, self-employed person, asbestos contractor should immediately be required to
1)  Document reasons
2) Inform DOL in writing within 24 hours and provide a plan of action and compliance  framework
3)  Appoint an AIA to investigate
4)  If an Asbestos Abatement Project stop work and implement controls to reduce asbestos to acceptable level
Identify the need to implement interim controls and to consider abatement if asbestos fibres in the air cannot be maintained at a safe level (below the OEL).

Health risk  Asbestos can generate airborne asbestos fibres

If this work environment exceeds the OEL of 0.2 f/cc on a daily then employees in this work environment are exposed to a serious health risk. This work area has natural ventilation and employees work in the plant daily. No respiratory protection is used. This and the picture below are common environments where exposure can occur.

Health risk deterioration of Asbestos cement board sheeting generates airborne asbestos fibres

Above is a photography of asbestos containing material and the damage to the eaves boarding. The eave boarding falls regularly and at times whilst students are at school. The falling sheeting generates airborne asbestos fibres. Asbestos Abatement is planned but the problem is when. The school wants to operate whilst removal occurs.


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Designed, Developed & Maintained by Michael Hickman
This page was  created on 10.05.2018
This page was last updated on 10.05.2018