Regulation of Occupational Asbestos Exposure in Massachusetts

Humans have used asbestos for thousands of years, but it was not until the industrial revolution when it was heavily mined and used in virtually every aspect of manufacturing, construction, and transportation sectors. Asbestos is a naturally occurring silica material generally harvested through mining operations.

taxpapers-369109-m.jpgIn the late 1970s and 1980s, as the general public became aware of the dangers associated with asbestos, state and federal government agencies banned a majority of asbestos use in the United States. The danger of asbestos is that fibers can be inhaled and become lodged in the protective layer of tissue, known as the mesothelium, which lines the chest, lungs, chest, and abdomen. Once the fibers become trapped in the mesothelium, it can metastasize into a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. It can also cause devastating scarring of the lung tissue, known as asbestosis, and other serious respiratory illnesses.

While asbestos is no longer commonly used, we are far from being rid of it, as it is found in many buildings throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Once a building deteriorates to the point of crumbling, or property owners wish to renovate or demolish a structure containing asbestos, the public and workers are put at risk for exposure. For this reason, asbestos abatement (removal) must be done with a strict adherence to state and federal law.

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Labor Standards (DLS) Asbestos Program is responsible for regulation of asbestos abatement and occupational asbestos safety. According to Asbestos Program guidelines, all personnel dealing with asbestos must be certified. This includes asbestos contractors, asbestos inspectors, management planners, project designers, supervisors, training providers and asbestos workers.

As our Boston mesothelioma attorneys can explain, even a worker who is doing asbestos removal without compensation (read: favor to a friend) must possess proper certification. It should also be noted even asbestos workers who are certified must be supervised by a licensed asbestos supervisor.

Before any asbestos abatement commences in Massachusetts, an analysis must be performed to determine if asbestos is present and, if so, what type of asbestos is present. Asbestos analytical services are further classified into four categories ranging from A through D. For example, holders of a Class A asbestos analysis certificate must be trained and certified in use of polarized light microscopy for bulk sample analysis in buildings required to adhere to Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA).

These regulations are taken very seriously, and for good reason, because asbestos is extremely dangerous to workers, their families, and other members of the community when not handled correctly. This, however, does not mean everyone follows the law. We have seen all too many property owners who do not have an asbestos inspection and do not tell their untrained workers they are dealing with a highly carcinogenic substance. These same landowners then have their laborers throw asbestos-laden construction debris away in ordinary unsealed trash bags, rather than wetting the debris and placing it in sealed plastic containers for transportation to a certified hazardous waste facility.

This negligent behavior creates additional risks to sanitation workers and the general community, as the bags are being crushed in the back of a garbage truck and driven across the town.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:
Asbestos Program, Department of Labor Standards (DLS)

More Blog Entries:
Bankrupt Asbestos Producer Sets Aside $375.5 Million for Future Mesothelioma Victims, Jan. 24, 2015, Boston Asbestos Injury Lawyer Blog

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