Asbestos Awareness Training: What is it and How Often do you Need It?
Anyone who's seen a local law firm ad has probably heard of asbestos. But do you know what it looks like? Where you'd encounter it? What sorts of activities make it dangerous to your health?
The answer is probably 'no,' unless you've had asbestos awareness training, which is exactly why it's required for at-risk workers in the U.S.
What Is Asbestos Awareness Training?
Asbestos awareness training is pretty much just what it sounds like – it's a relatively short training (one or two hours) that covers basic information about asbestos exposure and its health risks.
It does not qualify you to safely "abate" or eliminate an asbestos hazard. Professionals who repair, remove, or encapsulate asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) typically need a higher level of training and certification.
Instead, awareness training is intended for people that may encounter and disturb potential or actual ACMs so they can recognize when they're in danger and how to protect themselves.
Asbestos awareness training is required by both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Who Needs Asbestos Awareness Training?
Anyone who may be exposed to asbestos-containing dust will need OSHA asbestos awareness training.
- Construction workers performing repair, renovation, or demolition on older buildings
- Custodial and maintenance staff who have contact with ACMs (or potential ACMs, PACMs)
- HVAC personnel, plumbers, and electricians
Under EPA regulations, school custodial and maintenance staff need some level of training as long as they work in a building that contains ACMs (or materials assumed to be ACMs). This is stricter than OSHA, where anticipated exposure is the trigger.
Are There Different Levels of Asbestos Awareness Training?
OSHA asbestos awareness training is generally divided by the standard that applies to your industry (Construction §1926.1101, Maritime §1915.1001, or General Industry §1910.1001). The amount of training will vary by job, but compliant training can be as short as one hour.
Then there's the EPA, which sets standards for 3 types of asbestos training in the regulations that govern schools.
EPA Type 1 training is a 2-hour Awareness Training. It's required for maintenance and custodial staff that are involved in cleaning or minor maintenance where ACM may be accidentally disturbed.
EPA Type 2 training is a special operations and maintenance (O&M) training for maintenance and custodial workers that will be directly involved in the maintenance and repair of ACMs. It's at least 14 hours long and includes an extended discussion of Type 1 topics plus more detailed attention to work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE). It also includes hands-on exercises.
EPA Type 3 training is for abatement workers. It's even more extensive, with specialized abatement topics and more hands-on practice. Type 3 training typically takes between 32 and 40 hours.
When is Asbestos Awareness Training Required?
OSHA requires asbestos awareness training for workers that have a measured or anticipated exposure to asbestos fibers at or above the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
In schools where ACMs are present, EPA regulations require all custodial and maintenance workers to have some degree of asbestos awareness training, as discussed above.
The EPA's asbestos training must be completed within 60 days of beginning employment, and OSHA asbestos awareness training must be completed before or on the day of a relevant assignment.
What Does Asbestos Awareness Training Teach You?
The rules are slightly different whether you fall under General Industry or Construction standards. But generally, OSHA asbestos awareness training must cover the:
- Health effects associated with asbestos exposure
- Relationship between smoking and asbestos exposure in producing lung cancer
- Methods of recognizing asbestos (if Construction standards apply)
- Quantity, location, manner of use, release, and storage of asbestos
- Specific nature of operations that could result in asbestos exposure
- Appropriate engineering controls and work practices associated with their job assignment
- Specific procedures implemented to protect them from exposure, such as appropriate work practices, emergency and cleanup procedures, personal protective equipment (PPE), and more
- Purpose, proper use, and limitations of respirators and protective clothing (if appropriate)
- Purpose and description of OSHA's required medical surveillance program
- Contents of the relevant OSHA asbestos standard, including appendices
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of public health organizations where they can get information on how to quit smoking
- Requirements for posting signs and using labels, as well as the meaning of the relevant legends
EPA Type 1 training is similar in content but instead of the OSHA standard, it focuses on the O&M program.
How Long Is Asbestos Awareness Training Valid For?
OSHA requires asbestos awareness training to be taken annually. The standard also requires employers to keep records of employee training for at least a year past the last date of employment.
The EPA's O&M program doesn't expire, but if your job duties change, you may need to take more extensive training.
How Often Do You Need Asbestos Awareness Training?
To comply with OSHA regulations, asbestos awareness training to be repeated at least once a year. Employers are allowed to conduct it more frequently, and OSHA often encourages additional training if a worker demonstrates a lack of awareness or competence on the subject matter.
The EPA's O&M program doesn't require a refresher. However, since OSHA rules apply, at-risk employees will need some sort of annual training anyway.
Where Can You Get OSHA Asbestos Awareness Training?
As an OSHA-authorized training provider, we offer several asbestos awareness training courses in a self-paced online format.
You can purchase courses individually or get group enrollment rates. Get started today!