Asbestos Exposure and Electricians
Millions of homes built before 1980 are more than likely to contain building materials made from asbestos. This is a serious health threat for professional craftsmen who work to repair or remodel these homes because prolonged asbestos exposure can lead to many lung-related disease including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Electricians Constantly Face the Threat of Asbestos Exposure
Electricians are especially vulnerable to asbestos-related diseases because their work often focuses on upgrading or replacing outmoded electrical systems in existing buildings. There are several ways these workers risk exposure:
- Handling live electrical wires – Electrical wiring can be a fire safety hazard, which is why it was covered in the past with cloth wire insulation made from asbestos. The addition of asbestos made the insulation very resistant to heat and fire. Asbestos was also used in electrical panels, panel partitions, breakers and electrical panel arc chutes.
- Locating concealed wiring – Electrical wiring can’t be left exposed, so it is placed behind walls. In order to repair wiring, electricians must drill through these walls where they can come into contact with drywall or insulation made from asbestos.
- Working in attics and cellars – Replacing wiring in these locations may cause the electrician to have to work in crawl spaces that contain asbestos insulation. They may also have to remove asbestos-containing insulation to expose wiring that needs replacement or repair.
- Working on a job site that contains building materials made from asbestos – Just being on a construction site during demolition exposes electricians to asbestos because it was commonly used in a number of building supplies, including cement and plastic products; plaster and drywall; floor and ceiling tiles; and roofing materials. Removing and/or disturbing asbestos-containing materials releases the fibers into the surrounding air where they can be inhaled.
Awareness of the Risks can Make for a Safer Work Environment
Richard Moyle, who is the National Awareness Coordinator of the Mesothelioma Cancer Center in Orlando, Florida, had some important tips to help electricians stay safe on the job. In an article titled “Asbestos Removal Critical for Electrician’s Safety”, he talked about:
- Checking a job site to be sure that it has been tested for asbestos levels and that any asbestos has been removed by professional abatement contractors.
- Being aware of local jurisdictional requirements to determine if electrical permits and health requirements are being met.
- Wearing a ventilator or face mask to avoid inhaling asbestos dust.
Today’s Electrician is More Knowledgeable about Handling Asbestos
Asbestos exposure is still a very real concern for electricians; however, those who are currently working in this trade are better equipped to handle the dangers of exposure. In a CVS Special Report titled A High-Voltage Job, Sue Licher from the CVS Consumer Health Interactive interviewed John Sevcik, a working electrician with over 30 years experience. Here’s what he had to say about asbestos exposure:
“Sevcik can recall a time when it was common to saw asbestos piping without wearing protective equipment. Although today electricians exposed to asbestos that will be disturbed use respirators, those exposed to asbestos in the past need to have routine check-ups to make sure their lungs are clear.”