Asbestos is common in older commercial buildings due to its high fire resistance — using asbestos in floor tiles, ceiling tiles and insulation was a very good way to slow down the spread of fire within a building. Unfortunately, asbestos poses a health hazard to visitors and employees. When asbestos is disturbed, it can release fibers into the air that become trapped in your lungs forever if you inhale them, and the fibers increase your risk of developing cancer.
Because of the health risks that asbestos poses, it's important for building owners to prevent the people visiting and working in the building from being exposed. At the same time, it's important to avoid disrupting normal business operations within the building, since this can lead to lost revenue. To learn how to mitigate the risk of asbestos in your building while preventing operations from being disrupted, read on.
Determine Where the Friable Asbestos in Your Building Is Located
When you're trying to prevent asbestos exposure in your building without disrupting operations, it's important to concentrate on the most dangerous form of asbestos first. Friable asbestos is the one that poses the most risk to your visitors and employees, since it will easily crumble apart when touched, releasing asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos insulation is the most common type of friable asbestos found in older commercial buildings.
Non-friable asbestos, on the other hand, can often be left in place. Asbestos floor tiles and ceiling tiles are examples of non-friable asbestos. You can't break them apart easily by hand, which reduces the likelihood that anyone will be exposed to the fibers while working in your building.
In order to find out where the friable asbestos is located, you'll need to have your building inspected by a commercial asbestos removal service. They'll test all materials that can potentially contain asbestos and tell you which ones pose the most risk to the employees and visitors in your building.
Encapsulate and Enclose Asbestos Whenever Possible
Encapsulation is the quickest way to reduce asbestos risk, which means that it's the least disruptive to business operations. A commercial asbestos removal team will encapsulate friable asbestos by spraying a sealant onto it, which will harden and prevent it from breaking apart easily. This reduces the likelihood that employees will be exposed to fibers if they touch them.
Unfortunately, encapsulated asbestos can still be accidentally broken apart using power tools. Friable asbestos in areas where employees such as maintenance workers will be using power tools needs to be enclosed instead. In order to enclose asbestos, an airtight steel box will be constructed around it to prevent it from being damaged by power tools accidentally while your employees are working.
Remove Asbestos in Areas Where Employees Need to Make Repairs
One downside of enclosing asbestos is that your employees won't have access to the area, so maintenance employees will be unable to make repairs. For example, enclosing the asbestos insulation surrounding a pipe is a poor solution to mitigate risk — your employees wouldn't be able to access the pipe to repair a leak.
In this case, you'll need to have the asbestos removed instead. A commercial asbestos removal team will seal off the area with plastic sheeting, wet the asbestos in order to prevent fibers from being released, and then remove all of the asbestos from the area. Afterward, it will be safely disposed of in a hazmat landfill.
Ultimately, the secret to minimizing the disruption to your business operations when mitigating asbestos risk is to focus on friable asbestos. You should encapsulate or enclose it wherever possible since these are the quickest ways to prevent employees and visitors from being exposed to asbestos fibers. If your building contains asbestos, contact a commercial asbestos removal service in your area and have it inspected — they'll be able to develop a plan to prevent your employees from being exposed to asbestos without unnecessary disruption to your business operations