Each asbestos project will be defined as a low-risk abatement, medium risk abatement, or a high-risk abatement.
Each abatement level has an escalating amount of safety procedures to ensure the safe removal of asbestos from the area. These procedures are in place to protect the workers on the job site and also to ensure proper removal of asbestos from the area.
This article focuses on the three asbestos abatement levels, which materials pose the highest risk levels and the procedures that must be followed if your job is defined as a low risk, medium risk, or high-risk asbestos abatement.
Low-risk abatements do NOT require a containment. Often simple banner tape can suffice to keep people out of the abatement area.
Air monitoring must be done at the commencement of the project to make sure that airborne fibers are within the accepted limits. Materials to be removed should be wetted with a surfactant to inhibit asbestos fibers from becoming airborne
Tyvek suits and a ½ mask with P100 filters are the minimum PPE required for a low-risk abatement job.
Medium – also referred to as moderate – risk abatements require a containment. This means all materials not being removed must be covered.
A three-stage chambered exit must be set up with a dirty room, transfer room, and clean room. All materials leaving containment must be bagged, wiped down and then double bagged in yellow asbestos bags.
All workers leaving a medium risk containment must wet wipe themselves off with a cloth soaked in soapy water.
Any clothes worn in a medium risk abatement must stay in containment and are considered contaminated materials.
Air monitoring is mandatory inside the containment, outside the containment, and in the cleanroom, and one daily occupational exposure test is done.
Negative air pressure must be maintained throughout the abatement.
Medium risk asbestos materials include Drywall mud, decorative plasters, roofing shingles, and wallboard.
The protocols and sophistication of containments for high risks abatements are significantly more strict, due to the heightened risk of handling high-risk asbestos-containing materials.
A three-stage containment, consisting of a dirty room, transfer room, shower unit, and cleanroom must be set up for all high-risk asbestos abatements.
The Minimum PPE required for a high-risk abatement is a PAPR full face mask, with P100 filters.
A shower unit equipped with a 10-micron filter is required to keep asbestos out of the water supply.
Workers must be naked under the Tyvek suit and must shower before leaving the containment area to clean off potential asbestos fibres.
All materials leaving the containment must be bagged, the bag containing the materials must then be washed and placed in a clean bag in the transfer room.
Air monitoring must be set up inside, outside and in the cleanroom.
In addition to extensive air monitoring, a daily occupational sample taken to ensure the safety of the work area.
If the daily occupational test of the air quality comes back higher than the acceptable OEL, workers must up their PPE to a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for the remainder of the abatement to ensure safety.
Negative air pressure must be maintained throughout the duration of the abatement.
Materials considered as a high-risk abatement include: Linoleum, popcorn ceilings, vermiculite, boiler insulation, pipe wrap, ceiling tiles, and spray on asbestos insulation.
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