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Asbestos: Main Characteristics and Its Safety Measures for Employees

Asbestos is the generic name given to a group of silicate minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, etc.), with a fibrous and crystalline structure, which can be divided into filaments. This mineral can be found in all parts of the world and is mined in open pit mines. The main mines are in the US, Canada, South Africa, China, and the former USSR.

The excellent insulating properties, mechanical, chemical and resistance to heat and flame, as well as its relatively low cost, explain the numerous industrial and domestic applications for which it has been used since 1970. As a curious fact, it can be noted that the term Asbestos (Spanish) or asbestos (English) comes from the Greek and means indestructible or inextinguishable, referring to the properties of these mineral fibers.

It can be classified by its nature into two large groups: serpentines and amphiboles. Within the first group are chrysotile (white asbestos) and part of the second crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos).

Types of asbestos

  • Brown asbestos: grunerite.
  • White asbestos: chrysotile
  • Blue asbestos: riebeckita
  • Asbestos-tremolite: tremolite
  • Asbestos-actinolite: bisolite
  • Gray asbestos: anthophyllite

Asbestos-containing products

  • In the products that contain it, we must distinguish two large groups (not friable and friable).
  • In non-friable asbestos, the fibers are mixed with other materials, usually cement, glue or resins. The most well-known application is the corrugated sheets of fiber cement (uralite) that have even led to the use of these names as a synonym of asbestos. There are also other widespread applications such as gutters, tanks, and water pipes.
  • In friable asbestos fibers tend to detach easily, because they are not attached to another material. Some of the most well-known applications are projected asbestos, cords, joints, insulating panels, and fire-retardant garments.
  • A fact that allows us to assess the magnitude of use is that Spain has come to import during the period 1970-1990 about 2, 6 million tons. As for the derivative products, there are several studies that allow us to approximate that in Spain 1.7 million tons of non-friable product was installed (95% plates) and between 40,000 and 120,000 tons of friable.

Problems posed by its use

The simple fact of being in contact with asbestos is not a major risk although it is known well before its ban that its fibers, due to its small size and its long thin shape, were kept in the air and could breathe, causing breathing problems.

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An Asbestos Management Program (AMP) That Includes:

  • Inventory and identification of materials likely to contain asbestos. The location of flocking and heat insulation in certain buildings according to the year of construction;
  • Vulnerability analysis;
  • Identification of corrective measures for flocking, an insulating and internal coating containing or likely to contain asbestos with loss of integrity;
  • Development of the plan to correct asbestos-containing materials with possible emissions;
  • Management of interventions on materials containing asbestos;
  • Recording the collection of information and results via our asbestos management module in accordance with the obligation of registration and disclosure;
  • Implementation support including training of key users;
  • UNLIMITED access to the “Asbestos Management Program” module in the various registers in our web portal.

7 Attributes of An Effective Occupational Safety and Health Culture of Asbestos:

Some organizational cultures are more favorable than others to consider security in their interventions. The good news is that we know its characteristics, an excellent starting point to know where to focus the efforts of change.

Numerous investigations have revealed what are the desirable characteristics of an organizational culture favorable to industrial safety, which can be grouped into seven major attributes.

Understand the 7 attributes

  • Shared awareness of the most important risks.
  • Preventing major accidents, as well as serious and fatal accidents, is a priority in matters of safety, shared by all the actors of the organization.

Interrogative culture

This is about sharing the conviction that risks can never be fully controlled. The organization is in charge of exercising constant collective vigilance. Although there have not been serious accidents for many years, he continues to doubt, questions the reality of the terrain, encourages the signs and warnings, looks for the root causes of serious events.

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Integrated culture, all mobilized

No one is the sole holder of the keys to security. It is necessary to involve all the actors of the organization, without forgetting the representative instances of the personnel and the subcontracted companies.

The appropriate balance between what is regulated and what is managed

A balance must be found between regulated security (in reference to rules and procedures) and managed security (an initiative of field staff) according to the context and activity of the organization.

Permanent attention to the three pillars

Coherent action on technical reliability, management systems and human and organizational factors is essential to progress in terms of security. Do not neglect any of the 3 pillars.

The leadership of management and employee involvement

The challenge for the organization is to move towards an integrated safety culture, which favors the involvement of managers and operators on safety issues.

Culture of transparency

This is about generating trust within the organization to free the word. A policy of fair culture, coherence between discourses and loyal communication at an external and internal level are the keys to the culture of transparency.

Keys to transform the security culture

The development of the safety culture towards excellence is comparable to an organic process: it requires time, perseverance and adequate environmental factors. It is like a tree, which needs the necessary habitat to grow.

First of all, the management of the organization must be involved and firmly committed to the transformation of security beyond rhetoric, based on the conviction that security is a profitable investment, as well as a legal and moral obligation. You must demonstrate it boldly in decisions and budgets.

An initial assessment of the state of the security culture will give us an image of the strengths that the organization has and from which it is necessary to build, as well as the capacities to be developed.

In reality, each organization is different and has a unique culture. Therefore, we will have to adapt the safety culture program to each of them. My experience in companies from different countries, including leading multinationals in its sector, has allowed me to verify that the flexibility of those responsible for implementing a safety culture program and to integrate it with the safety and health management system in each center of work is essential to achieve true continuous improvement.

The organizations that achieve this excellence in security do so with the development of a security strategy to mark the course of the cultural transformation that is intended. The definition of a vision, values ​​and objectives in the short and long term should be transmitted to the entire organization. These will serve as a compass to the committee that has to carry out the safety culture program and lead the organization towards excellence.

The specific training for each organizational level will allow us to raise awareness among the workers and the progressive development of their capacities, from the leadership of the managers to the perception of the risk of the workers.

Visible leadership has a key role in this process. Part of the application of emotional intelligence in the prevention of accidents. An organization will need leaders who set an example and influence the emotions of subordinates to develop their skills, meet the objectives, align security efforts and achieve excellence in accordance with the strategy of the organization.

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The studies support that the learning of the skills of the emotionally intelligent leaders (Daniel Goleman) on the part of managers and middle managers goes hand in hand with the improvement of the work environment , which supposes, in turn, an improvement of the results of the company, a reduction in the accident rate and, ultimately, the generation of responsible and healthy organizations.

In addition, other important elements will have to be worked on in order to grow the security culture and maintain it over time, such as trust between employees and employers, teamwork , individual responsibility , shared surveillance without entering into the classic game of blaming the other, the attitude , the contagion of positive emotions , the motivation , the empowerment of the subordinates, the commitment , the evaluation of the risk prior to the task, the participation , the cooperation and the psychosocial risks .

Finally, a positive and effective internal communication, that is, frequent, coherent, multidirectional, assertive and personal, that multiplies the effects of the other elements, will be essential. In this sense, the creation or promotion of internal communication channels and the creation of awareness campaigns and internal marketing that transmit the company’s commitment to security are considered basic.

Explain the objectives of the organization to all employees, provide data and stories about accidents and report on the achievements made throughout the year are key to involving the entire organization.

Asbestos

Author Bio:

Asbestos Specialist can carry out all asbestos monitoring throughout a removal project as required or any standalone air test to provide reassurance with an air fiber count. Samples suspected of containing asbestos can be analyzed in our purpose built lab while you wait, or larger batches analyzed over 2-3 days.

We offer a wide range of training courses from basic asbestos awareness, task manual training, operatives training, and all P400 courses. Training courses can be tailored to your needs and delivered at a location to suit you. We produce asbestos management plans bespoke for your premises to ensure you comply with all your legal obligations.

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