Current Safety Topics
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral found in certain types of rock formations. When mined and processed, it takes the form of very small fibers which are usually invisible to the naked eye. These individual fibers are generally mixed with a material which binds them together so that they can be used in many different products. Asbestos became a popular commercial product because it is strong, won’t burn, resists corrosion, and insulates well. It is most commonly used as insulation and in building materials. It has been used in floor and ceiling tile, cement asbestos pipe, corrugated paper pipe wrap, acoustical and decorative insulation, pipe and boiler insulation, and spray-applied fireproofing. The fluffy white substance you may find on steel structures above a dropped ceiling, for example, is one type of spray-applied material. The amount of asbestos in products varies widely, from less than 1 to 100 percent, depending on the use. Positive identification of asbestos in a product can only be made when samples are taken by a properly trained and licensed asbestos professional (inspector). The precise amount of asbestos can only be determined from analysis of samples by an accredited laboratory. However, EPA only recommends testing suspect materials if they are damaged (fraying, crumbling) or if you are planning a renovation that would disturb the suspect material.
Although the manufacture, importation, processing, or distribution in commerce for most asbestos-containing products was banned in the US in 1989, the rule was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.
Asbestos fibers can cause serious health problems. If inhaled, they can disrupt the normal functioning of the lungs. Three specific diseases – asbestosis, lung cancer, and another cancer known as mesothelioma have been linked to asbestos exposure. These diseases do not develop immediately after inhalation of asbestos fibers; it may be 20 years or more before symptoms appear. In general, as with cigarette smoking, the more asbestos fibers a person inhales, the greater the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. The most severe health problems from asbestos exposure have been experienced by some workers who held jobs in industries such as shipbuilding, where they were exposed to very high levels of asbestos in the air. These employees worked directly with asbestos materials on a regular basis as a part of their jobs. Much uncertainty surrounds the risk from exposure to low levels of asbestos fibers.
When Is Asbestos a Problem?
Intact and undisturbed asbestos materials generally do not pose a health risk. Asbestos materials, however, can become hazardous when, due to damage or deterioration over time, they release fibers. If the fibers are inhaled, they can lead to health problems. The potential for an asbestos containing material to release fibers depends primarily on its condition. If the material, when dry, can be crumbled by hand pressure – a condition known as “friable” – it is more likely to release fibers, particularly when damaged.
What Are the Proper Methods for Managing Asbestos?
Most asbestos-containing material can be properly managed where it is. In fact, asbestos that is managed properly and maintained in good condition appears to pose relatively little risk to building occupants and employees. Proper asbestos management begins with a comprehensive inspection by qualified, trained and experienced inspectors, licensed by New York State. Inspecting the condition of asbestos materials is extremely important so that changes in the material’s condition, such as damage or deterioration, can be detected and corrected before the condition worsens. Sometimes normal school or maintenance activities can damage asbestos material and cause fiber release, particularly if the material is “friable.” A thorough initial inspection and regular surveillance can prevent accidental exposure to high levels of asbestos fibers.
Proper methods for dealing with material that has become damaged are:
- Developing and carrying out a special maintenance plan to insure that asbestos containing materials are kept in good condition. This is the most common method when the materials are in good condition at the time of initial inspection.
- Spraying the material with a sealant to prevent fiber release – a process called encapsulation.
- Removing asbestos – generally necessary only when the material damage is extensive and severe, and other actions will not control fiber release.
Encapsulation and removal must be done by NYS licensed asbestos professionals. The decision to remove asbestos containing material on campus is made after careful consideration of all possible outcomes. An ill-conceived or poorly conducted removal has the potential to create a greater health risk than leaving it undisturbed. Consequently, all school removal projects are designed, supervised, and conducted by licensed professionals and are performed in accordance with state-of-the-art procedures. In addition, an experienced and qualified, third-party project monitor is hired to oversee the asbestos contractor’s work to make sure the removal is conducted safely.
Asbestos Abatement Projects
Asbestos abatement is conducted when asbestos containing materials are damaged or anytime work is planned in areas where asbestos is present and may be disturbed by the work. When abatement is necessary, the campus hires a contractor to remove the material. We are also required to hire a separate contractor to conduct air monitoring both inside the abatement area and immediately outside the abatement area. This contractor is also responsible for managing the project. In advance of the abatement, and only after project approval, New York State regulations require posting of notices on building entrances.
How Can I Protect Myself?
As a parent, teacher, student, service worker or other school employee, the most important thing you can do first is to learn about your school’s asbestos activities. As you do so, remember that the mere presence of asbestos in a school doesn’t necessarily mean that the health of its occupants is endangered. Again, asbestos that is managed properly and maintained in good condition poses relatively little risk. Federal regulations do not require the removal of all friable asbestos from schools until the building is demolished. In fact, during the life of the building, other methods of dealing with the material are often preferable to removal. In those cases when removing asbestos is determined to be the appropriate decision, the work must be done under strict controls by trained, qualified and experienced asbestos professionals who are licensed by NYS.
The most important and simplest thing you can do to minimize your exposure to asbestos is to be aware of which materials contain asbestos. Once you know where asbestos is, avoid day-to-day activities that might disturb the material. If disturbed asbestos containing material is observed report the condition immediately to either the Office of Community Engagement, via RA or RC; Facilities Management; or the Environmental, Health and Safety Department so the condition can be investigated and corrective action taken.
Regularly inspect the condition of asbestos-containing materials to ensure they remain intact.
Encourage students to promptly report damaged materials.
Working in an excessively hot environment can be difficult … even fatal. Heat creates many safety problems and illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. These illnesses are caused by hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature).
Heat can also cause you to become inattentive, short‐tempered, dizzy, and slow, leading you to work in an unsafe manner. Add humidity and the effects are compounded.
Each heat related illness has its own symptoms. Watch for these warning signs:
Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy exercise in hot environments. The spasms may be more intense and more prolonged than typical nighttime leg cramps. Fluid and electrolyte loss often contribute to heat cramps.
Muscles used while working, such as those in the arms, legs, and abdomen are the most often affected, although heat cramps may involve any muscle group involved in exercise.
Cramps may occur after work, while you’re resting. They signal that the body has sweated too much salt.
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
Heat exhaustion symptoms are warning signs that the mechanism that controls the body’s heat is seriously overtaxed. Heat stroke may follow if heat exhaustion is not treated.
- High body temperature. A core body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher, obtained with a rectal thermometer, is the main sign of heatstroke.
- Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
- Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel dry or slightly moist. Perspiration may even stop.
- Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
- Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
- Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
- Racing heart rate.Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
- Headache. Your head may throb.
Heat stroke is serious and can be fatal. The body’s heat control mechanism shuts down. It’s a medical emergency. Get treatment immediately.
To reduce your risk of heat illness:
Schedule tasks to avoid heavy physical activity during the hottest times of the day.
Use additional workers for the job or slow down the pace of the work
Gradually adapt to working in the heat. If the weather suddenly turns hot or you’re transferred to a hot environment, take it easy until you are acclimatized.
Drink water often. The body loses water through perspiration, so you need to replenish it. Don’t drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages; they cause you to lose even more water and salt. Water should be cool or cold.
Take frequent rest breaks. Move to a cooler area or switch to lighter work periodically.
Get a physician’s advice before replacing salt. Salt tablets aren’t recommended. Lightly salted food or mineral drinks may be better.
Dress lightly, in layers so that you can subtract or add clothing as the temperature changes. Be sure to shade your skin from the sun.
Stay alert to signs and symptoms of heat illness in yourself and in your co‐workers. If you see signs of heat illness, move the victim to a cool place and fan or soak him with cool water. If he or she is conscious, give the person water to drink. If you suspect that someone is suffering from heat stroke, call for medical help immediately. When working in a hot environment, help your body keep its cool and heed the warning signs of heat illness.
A recently published National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report shows that in the period from 2010–2014, fires involving extension cords accounted for 57% of the fires involving cords or plugs, as well as disproportionate shares of civilian deaths (70%) and injuries (69%). Extension cords were involved in an estimated average of 1,750 non-confined home fires in that period. These fires resulted in annual averages of 80 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $79 million in direct property damage.
The purpose of this policy is to describe the permissible use of power strips and extension cords within Purchase College buildings. It applies to use of these devices on campus and is useful information for home as well.
|Fused Power Strips|
|Fused power strips provide power to electronic equipment that is in proximity. An inline circuit breaker will interrupt the electric current in case of an overload or a short circuit. They are also known as relocatable power taps or multiple outlet strips.|
|Extension cords are intended to provide temporary electric power from a wall mounted receptacle to the plug of an electrically-powered device. They are not meant to be a replacement for fixed wiring. While it may seem convenient to use extension cords, their use indicates that additional hard wiring may be needed. Extension cords are only for temporary use of non-fixed equipment. For example, lighting and tools used in maintenance work.|
|General Requirements for Power Strips and Approved Extension Cord Use|
Always inspect the power cord prior to use. Do not use any device that is damaged.
Do not take shortcuts or chances with electrical safety, and never rely on unsafe practices such as unauthorized “repairs” of electrical cords. Protect yourself and others from electrical fires and electrical shock by looking after all electrical equipment, including power strips. It is worth it.
Increasing public awareness regarding the health effects of mold has led to increased concern. Molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. In general, background mold spore levels tend to be higher in rural areas near forests and swampy areas. There are several forested and swampy areas on campus where mold would not be uncommon.
Mold can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and a food source is present. Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors. All of us are exposed to a variety of fungal spores daily in the air we breathe.
When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth may occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.
In many cases, occupant actions in response to changing weather conditions such as variations between hot and cold can provide ideal conditions for mold to grow. For example, opening windows when it is hot and not closing them when it is raining or very damp outside, will increase interior moisture.
Identifying moisture problems as soon as they become apparent and responding immediately is the best approach to prevent widespread contamination of an area. The importance of alerting the facilities management team to a problem anytime a leak or water damage is discovered cannot be overstressed. This will allow the team to respond, correct the moisture problem and begin cleaning the area. The response will begin with a thorough visual inspection. This is the most important initial step in identifying a possible mold problem and in determining remediation strategies to be followed.
Once a condition is reported, occupants must not engage in cleaning up mold as mold and mold spores may be dispersed throughout the air where they can be inhaled by building occupants.
In almost all cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Visible mold is the best indication that a moisture problem exists.
Sampling can be considered as part of an evaluation in specific instances. The decision to conduct sampling will be made by the Environmental Health & Safety Department. In the event sampling is indicated, the strategy shall focus on collecting samples in the area of concern, in an area in the same building where there is no concern, and outside that building.
The evaluation of air-sampling results is based on the comparison of the types (similar mix expected) and levels (lower indoors expected) of fungi detected indoors versus that detected outdoors. Differences between indoor and outdoor results suggest but do not confirm that mold growth is present indoors.
Sampling should be conducted only after developing a sampling strategy that includes a provable theory regarding suspected mold sources. Inadequate sample plans may generate misleading, confusing and useless results at an unnecessary, high cost.
It is important to remember that the results of sampling may have limited use or application. Due to each person’s response to mold exposure being unique, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exposure limits for mold or mold spores currently do not exist.
Sampling for mold must be conducted by properly trained professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, who use established sampling methods and can provide assistance in the interpretation and application of results.
Keep in mind that air sampling for mold, when properly conducted, provides a snapshot in time and only applies to the moment when the sampling occurred. Conditions can and do change.
|Mold Prevention Tips|
|Non-porous materials (e.g. metals, glass, and hard plastics) can almost always be cleaned. Semi porous and porous structural materials, such as wood and concrete can be cleaned if they are structurally sound. Porous materials, such as fabric, ceiling tiles and insulation, and wallboards (with more than a small area of mold growth) should be removed and discarded. Wallboard should be cleaned or removed at least six inches beyond visually assessed mold growth (including hidden areas, see Visual Inspection) or wet or water-damaged areas.|