By the Occupational Safety and Health
Asbestos is a serious threat to the human health. In recent decades it has been a major concern in the medical community in almost every country in the world about asbestos.
1.What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a fibrous silicate material, known since antiquity for its excellent fire resistance. Asbestos has a thermal insulation capacity amazing properties (strength – four times as much as steel, elasticity, resistance to acids and alkalis, resistance to high temperatures 100-1700οC, resistance to electricity and high thermal insulation capacity). All those characteristics are hard to find concentrated in any other material.
Asbestos is found in nature and more specific in the minerals serpentine and is doubtful. The most common type is chrysotile (3MgO2SiO2.2H2O). This mineral is abundant in about 3/4 of the earth’s solid crust and is also found in Cyprus.
2. Use of asbestos
There are over 3,000 uses and applications of asbestos. It is used in asbestos cement products, insulating materials, abrasive devices, fire protection equipment, etc.
Until recently, about the 90% of asbestos was used to produce asbestos cement products, such as pipes, roofing slabs, flat slabs for wall partitions, air ducts, etc.
3. Exposure to asbestos
Workers may be exposed to asbestos when:
(a) they work in the mining of asbestos materials
(b) they work in the manufacture of asbestos-containing products
(c) they use/intervene on asbestos products
(d) they are located in areas where there is improperly stored asbestos or asbestos-containing materials
(e) they remove or deposit asbestos containing products
Research has shown that asbestos containing products whose fibers are “locked in” together with another commonly inert product, such as asbestos cement, resins and high-density roofing products, do not release breathable fibers of dangerous length or diameter in significant quantities to pose a health risk.
4. Diseases caused by asbestos
The immediate and first contact with asbestos does not cause obvious signs of disease. Asbestos becomes dangerous to health when high concentrations of fiber are inhaled for a long time. Usually people who work with asbestos on a daily basis and are constantly exposed to it can suffer serious damage to their health.
It has been found that it takes 10 to 40 years for a person to develop the disease after being exposed to asbestos. It seems that it is rare for someone to develop such a disease after an episode of exposure to high amounts of asbestos fibers or exposure for a short period of time to small amounts. However, because the occurrence of diseases is directly related to the sensitivity of each person, exposure to asbestos should always be avoided. In cases where it cannot be avoided, it should be reduced to the lowest possible level and limits set by law.
5. Main diseases caused by asbestos:
Asbestosis: Asbestosis is the pneumoconiosis caused by asbestos fibers in the lungs. It is a very serious, degenerative and progressive disease of the lungs, which gradually destroys them. It is caused by long-term exposure to asbestos and results in permanent disabilities and respiratory failure, which require specialized medical treatment.
Lung cancer: Asbestos is one of the leading causes of lung cancer in non-smokers. In smokers who are also exposed to asbestos, the incidence of lung cancer increases exponentially.
Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the membranous tissues that cover the entire inside of the chest and abdomen and is not related to smoking. It is a rare and very dangerous aggressive cancer, with poor therapeutic results in terms of cure. The exposure to asbestos is the cause of mesothelioma.
6. Procedures and protection measures
The Occupational Safety and Health (Asbestos Protection) Regulations of 2006 and 2015 (KDP 316/2006 and KDP 46/2015) apply to all workplaces where asbestos is used and determine the procedures and measures to be taken to protect workers from asbestos.
This Legislation contains all the provisions of the European Union Directive 83/477 / EEC as amended by Directives 91/382 / EEC, 2003/18 / EC and the Asbestos-related Convention No. 162 of the International Labor Organization.
In cases where asbestos work includes demolition or removal of asbestos and/or asbestos containing materials from buildings, structures, apparatus or facilities, such as removal and/or replacement of asbestos sheets, Occupational Safety and Health applies at the same time (Minimum Specifications for Temporary or Movable Construction sites) Regulations of 2015 (KDP 410/2015), which define special procedures and measures for dealing with risks on construction sites.
The natural or legal person who is going to undertake the transport of asbestos materials, must hold the Waste Management License (Collection and Transfer) or the Certificate of Registration in the Archive of Waste Managers for asbestos waste, which are issued by the Department of Environment. The license or certificate must be valid. More information can be found on the website of the Department of Environment.
As analyzed below, the Occupational Safety and Health legislation provides, inter alia, for the issuance of a special Permit for Asbestos Insulation or Coating, the written Notice of the Inspector General and the preparation of a Work Plan (working method) and requires a Safety and Health Plan.
Anyone undertaking and/or performing any work related to asbestos insulation or coating must have a special permit.