When compared to the prevalence of its use just a few decades ago, the use of asbestos has dropped dramatically. However, most people here in Louisiana and elsewhere are under the impression that it is not used at all, and exposure only arises in the demolition, remodel or destruction of older buildings.
Sadly, that is not the case. Workers in some industries continue to risk exposure while at work, and so do their families by extension. For instance, if you work in a commercial auto shop, you remain at risk.
Auto mechanics and other auto shop workers still face exposure
Certain clutches and brakes still contain asbestos for its heat and fire resistant properties. For this reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency established regulations and protocols for auto shops to follow when working with these vehicle components in particular.
OSHA’s regulations outline how you should handle inspecting, taking apart, repairing and reassembling brakes and clutches containing asbestos in order to eliminate or limit exposure to this toxic substance. Inhaling or ingesting the dust from clutches and brakes could provide enough exposure to cause you serious and fatal illnesses in the future.
Identifying asbestos-containing parts
A visual inspection is not enough to identify asbestos-containing parts. Material Data Safety Sheets or labels could yield some clues, but this information may not be available for all vehicles or parts. Instead, you should assume that every clutch and brake component contains asbestos. If you ignore this rule, you may be gambling with your life.
What OSHA requires
If your shop does fewer than five jobs a week on clutches or brakes, you can use the wet wipe method. This entails using a low-pressure spray bottle to wet the components then wiping them off. If your shop does five or more jobs a week on clutches or brakes, you must use one of the following two methods:
- The low pressure/wet cleaning method involves using low-pressure spray equipment to wet the components. This specially designed equipment then captures the runoff into a basin to keep it out of the work area.
- The negative-pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum method involves fitting a special see-through box around the components to prevent exposure.
These methods may seem tedious and time-consuming, but they could save your life. Another step you can take to protect yourself is to retain documentation regarding your employment and your potential exposure to asbestos from the clutches and brakes you work on throughout your career in case you do receive a diagnosis of an asbestos-related condition at some point in the future.