Of all the hazardous materials out there today, asbestos is one of the best known. Due to its widespread use in the past, and its continued presence in many areas today, most people are well aware of what it is, and that there are dangers associated with it. Just because most people know it is a hazardous material, doesn’t mean that it is not required to post warning signs and labels in any area where it exists.
Having an area properly labeled will not only ensure everyone knows of the hazards, but it will also make sure that people know that there is asbestos present in the area at all. This is critical because while most people do know what asbestos is, they often can’t identify it by sight, and it is even more often hidden behind walls, in a ceiling, or even within other products.
To help improve safety and health in areas where asbestos is present, OSHA has updated their asbestos labeling standards, effective June 1st, 2016. Following these new standards will not only help to improve safety in the workplace, but is also essential for avoiding fines and penalties associated with failing to be in compliance.
When applying labeling to any products or areas that contain asbestos, it is important to ensure you are following the guidelines established by OSHA and the EPA. These requirements include the following:
- Location – The labels must be placed in a prominent location that is in close proximity to the product name or description that contains the asbestos. For walls or other building materials, the label must be on the exterior surface.
- Labeling Words – The label must say, in easily visible lettering, “CAUTION!!! This product contains ASBESTOS which is known to cause cancer and lung disease. Avoid creating dust. Intentionally removing or tampering with this label is a violation of state law.”
- Work Areas – Work areas where asbestos is present need to be clearly marked using a warning sign to let people know of the hazard.
- Each Item – Labels should be applied to each individual product or area where the asbestos is located. This is another update to the standards, and helps to ensure everyone knows exactly where the asbestos is located.
Updated Verbiage for Asbestos Signage
When using warning signs to alert people to the presence of asbestos, it is essential to use the proper verbiage as established with the June 1, 2016 update. Prior to this update, signs were phrased like this:
- CANCER AND LUNG DISEASE HAZARD
- AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
After the update, all signs for this type of warning need to read like this:
- MAY CAUSE CANCER
- CAUSES DAMAGES TO LUNGS
- AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
These may seem like fairly minor adjustments, but they are critical for conveying the most accurate information possible, and for ensuring people know of the risks they face. Of course, updating labeling to comply with these requirements is also important for keeping up with the latest standards from regulatory agencies.
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