- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.
December 11, 1995
The Honorable Bill Martini
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman Martini:
Thank you for your letter of August 15, on behalf of your constituent, who raised concerns relating to the protection of employees working with automotive brakes. Specifically, it addressed the control of asbestos fibers during the inspection process, during the use of aerosol products, and when asbestos fibers have contaminated the working surface of the repair or inspection area of the establishment. Please accept my apology for the delay in this response.
Specific asbestos compliance methods for brake and clutch repair facilities were identified in the asbestos standard (1910.1001, section (f), Methods of Compliance, and section (k), Housekeeping) published in the Federal Register on August 10, 1994.
Section (f) of the standard requires that the employer control employee exposures below the eight hour (time-weighted average) limit of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air, and/or the excursion limit of 1.0 fiber per cubic centimeter of air averaged over a thirty (30) minute sampling period. The preferred methods of compliance are a negative pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system, a low pressure/wet cleaning method, or an equivalent method as described in detail under mandatory Appendix F of the standard. The spray-solvent can method of cleaning brakes and clutches has been considered an equivalent method by OSHA. This was based on the interpretation by OSHA of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study in the rulemaking record which demonstrated sufficiently low exposure data for the spray-solvent can method (Exhibit 1-112, OSHA Docket H033e). NIOSH, however, specifically noted in the record that the success of the spray-solvent can method was dependent on the work practices that were described in the study. Section (f) also allows those employers who inspect or repair no more than five pair of brakes per week to use the wet method (spray bottle, hose nozzle, or other implement capable of delivering a fine mist of water or amended water) described in Appendix F.
Removal of the brake drum to inspect or repair the brake parts can generate a large number of asbestos fibers into the workplace; therefore, beating on the drum with a hammer is not recommended. The drum should be carefully pulled back far enough to observe the brake parts. It is sufficient to thoroughly wet the exterior and the area around the seam between the brake drum and backing plate. Any dislodged fibers must be cleaned up immediately.
Section (k) of the standard requires that all surfaces be maintained as free as practicable of asbestos waste and debris. Therefore, the employer would be required to clean up all fibrous asbestos material from the surfaces in the inspection or repair areas of the facility. The standard requires that such clean up be performed with a HEPA-filtered vacuuming system.
The agency believes that these protective measures in the Asbestos standard will ensure that automotive workers are not exposed to harmful levels of airborne asbestos.
Thank you for your interest in worker safety and health.
Joseph A. Dear
August 15, 1995
Ms. Geri Palast
Assistant Secretary For Congressional
Affairs Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20210
Dear Ms. Palast:
I have sent the attached communication for your consideration. Your investigation of the statements contained therein would be helpful. In addition, I would appreciate any pertinent information available in order to make a satisfactory reply to my constituent.
Please send a written response to the attention of my Congressional staff member, Kimberly Linthicum, at the address listed below:
Congressman Bill Martini
Attn: Kimberly Linthicum
United States House of Representatives
House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Thank you for your cooperation in this regard. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest opportunity.
Member of Congress
March 13, 1995
The Honorable William J. Martini
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-6601
I am writing to ask for your support on OSHA's Final Rule on Asbestos 29 CFR 1910.1001 as originally published in the federal register on August 10 and which became effective October 10, 1994. As a professional in the automotive aftermarket industry I realize the positive impact this legislation could have on the health of automotive workers, their families, and innocent customers who might otherwise be subjected to harmful asbestos brake dust in many cases without their knowledge.
Unfortunately this fair, rational and practical rule has come under fire from special interest groups led by the aerosol manufacturers who have succeeded in pressuring OSHA to reverse it position concerning the safety measures as they apply to the use of aerosol products in particular and as a result the "control" of harmful brake dust in general.
It is not that I am against aerosol products like most consumers I use them on a daily basis for window cleaning, hair spraying etc. They do have their place in our society. The point remains however that pressurized aerosol products without benefit of containment or filtration systems should not be considered an effective control on asbestos dust, some of which is so fine that once airborne it can remain suspended in the air for days before it settles out. The lack of a containment system is also dangerous because in many instances these chemical products can runoff the brake drum onto the shop floor where they deposit their harmful payload of asbestos dust which once dried again is free to go airborne the next time it is disturbed by a footstep, pushbroom, or even a gentle breeze, Thereby relegating the control process to a movement of the problem from one surface to another with a great risk of exposure throughout.
Also not considered is that often as a prelude to a free brake inspection offered by most garages, mechanics will remove the brake drums of almost every car that comes into the shop. On average, for every brake job performed, three or four inspections will occur.
When a drum is rusted or "frozen" in place as often occurs it is routine for a mechanic to beat the drum with a hammer until the shock separates it from the axle. Each blow from the hammer causes a black mushroom cloud of harmful brake dust to erupt from the drum. Then after loosening the drum the mechanic more often than not will dump it onto the floor releasing even more dust throughout the shop. If you've ever been into a shop doing brake repair look at the floor around the brake repair area you'll frequently see tell tale black circles outlining where the drum was dropped to release the dust from within. As you can see aerosols lack a great deal of effectiveness as they can only be utilized once the drum has been removed and have the potential to contribute to rather than eliminate the dust control problem.
There are viable alternatives which have been both explored and embraced by OSHA in its original mandate. OSHA has designated two "preferred methods", the HEPA vacuum-enclosure and the low pressure wet cleaning method. Both of these methods afford mechanics the opportunity to loosen drums without creating a cloud of harmful asbestos dust.
These concerns were adequately addressed by the original OSHA mandate which evolved from a considerable amount of independent and objective data. Independent air sampling tests would have also been justly required at each location opting to use an aerosol product as a form of brake dust control. This safeguard was necessary in the first place because in addition to the above mentioned dust control problems, it is highly unlikely that any two shops would be subject to the same ventilation (air currents), ambient temperature, moisture, or host of other variables that will have an impact upon the effectiveness of such a product to neutralize the threat from brake dust or contain its movement within the shop.
These facts lead me to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible to accurately predict the unknowing exposure that may occur as a result of dropping these much need safeguards in the original regulation. I ask that you review this situation and support the agency in its original version of the mandate to help protect the many innocent lives that will suffer if greed is allowed to outweigh the need for adequate work related health measures that are easily within our grasp.
Afterall if the logic of the aerosol companies were allowed to go unchecked we may be able to look forward to the day when we can "safely" check for a natural gas leak, with a blow torch!
I firmly believe that OSHA's decision to delist the solvent spray method is right for America's automotive community, and right for the thousands of people who will benefit from not coming into contact with harmful brake dust as a result of it. Please give OSHA and the thousands of automotive aftermarket professionals your invaluable support on this issue.