In order to comply with Washington State Department of Labor & Industry regulations, the University of Washington has begun to offer online asbestos awareness training to its employees, which will help them avoid asbestos or recognize it when it is found.
According to an article in the university’s newspaper, The Daily, more than 2,000 employees have already completed the course during the last two months.
“Our goal is to have all employees take the course,” said Roy Smith, an asbestos compliance analyst at UW Environmental Health & Safety. “What we’re trying to promote is to report damage of buildings and ensure better maintenance.”
Smith, who believes the convenience of taking the course online attracts employees to sign up for it, says that a large number of the university’s buildings contain asbestos, particularly those that were built prior to 1980. In most cases, he notes, it is found in flooring, ceilings, and pipe insulation.
“We’re trying to get people to have a mindset to assume everything has asbestos,” said Stuart Cordts, a heath and safety supervisor at the UW. He said the course will help management avoid confusion about what products contain asbestos and will assist everyone in taking precautionary measures should they encounter the dangerous mineral.
Smith reminds everyone, however, that most asbestos-containing materials do not pose a health hazard unless they are damaged or “friable”, which means they can release toxic airborne fibers.
“With effective management in place, asbestos is not a health hazard,” Smith said. “It’s not a high risk to anybody as long as they are generally aware … [and it] doesn’t warrant panic.”
In the online training course, employees are advised to report damaged asbestos to supervisors in order to prompt quick repair. They are also advised of simple steps they can take to avoid exposure, such as placing mats under chairs that may be scraping asbestos-containing floor tiles.