Facilities Management » Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers that are resistant to heat and corrosion. Asbestos has been used in products such as insulation for pipes (steam lines for example), floor tiles, building materials, as well as in vehicle brakes and clutches. Asbestos includes the mineral fibers chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, actinolite and any of these materials that have been chemically treated or altered.

Asbestos is commonly found in old buildings such as those built in the 1940s and 1950s, and can be found in many items such as:

  • HVAC Duct Insulation
  • Boiler insulation
  • Pipe insulation
  • Cooling towers
  • Floor tile/ceiling tile
  • Electrical wiring insulation
  • Wall board or spackling compounds

Health Effects

Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis (scarring of the lungs resulting in loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and to death); mesothelioma (cancer affecting the membranes lining of the lungs and abdomen); lung cancer; and cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, and rectum.


Maintenance workers and engineers can be unknowingly exposed to asbestos from many possible areas and sources. Engineers can be exposed while working in furnace rooms where boilers are insulated with asbestos, or when making repairs to old piping or doing minor renovations. Significant asbestos exposures can occur when insulation in old buildings is removed during renovations. Asbestos exposure is often associated with areas or items that might not be expected to contain asbestos, including building materials such as floor and ceiling tiles. Maintenance personnel may be unaware and untrained to handle these hazards.

Requirements under OSHA's Asbestos Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1001

Follow all applicable requirements of the Asbestos Standard for General Industry [29 CFR 1910.1001] and Construction [29 CFR 1926.1101] including:

  • Maintaining exposures at or below Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). The employer must ensure that no worker is exposed above the standard’s Permissible Exposure Limits: 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA); and an excursion limit of 1.0 fiber per cubic centimeter as averaged over a 30-minute sampling period.
  • Complying with all requirements (both in the Asbestos standard and other applicable OSHA standards, as well as the requirements of other Agencies, e.g., the U.S. EPA) for exposure monitoring, regulated areas, engineering controls and work practices (including following the hierarchy of controls), respiratory protection, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene facilities and practices, hazard communication (including warning signs and labels), employee information and training, housekeeping, medical surveillance, recordkeeping, and observation of monitoring by employees or their representatives.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other Federal Agencies implement additional asbestos-related laws and regulations that may apply to hospitals.

Additional Information