“I’m the homeowner so safety rules don’t apply to me.” I’ll be careful and protect myself.”
We hear statements like that daily from folks who call us looking for information and advice. The best advice we offer is that jobs dealing with even the potential of coming across hazardous materials need to be left to the professionals. Courses and certification in asbestos remediation take several days. Biohazard awareness and clearing is also either a one or two day course. Why? Because there’s much to learn about protecting not just yourself but also those around you which in a residential home could be your spouse and children. Training protects workers families.
The first thing you need to know is that WorkSafeBC rules apply to everyone. If you are managing workers on a job then you are liable. If you are a homeowner hiring someone to do the work, you are liable. If you are a homeowner doing the work yourself you could be liable for those around you if they get ill.
One of the key items we are concerned about is what happens when someone stops working? Have they decontaminated themselves and their equipment properly? Yes, decontaminate. Even if the worker or homeowner manages to protect themselves properly while working they must remember the steps and items that need to be decontaminated after they stop work. And we don’t mean when the job or project is done but rather when they stop work and leave the job site or renovation zone.
Asbestos fiber, for example, can travel through the air and land on everything. This means that other rooms can become contaminated, tools, clothing, and anyone in the area can become contaminated. If you’re clearing up rodent or raccoon feces the dust stirred up may also be hazardous and land on everything in the area including you. In the cities we see more and more people cleaning up areas that have had used needles and drug items thrown away. Again, any residue and “dust” could potentially be very dangerous.
So how does all this affect your family? Clothes you were wearing that are thrown in the laundry could now spread fibers or dust. Even if you wear a Dupont Tyvek suit it needs to be dealt with properly. If you handle things with your hands you not only could infect yourself but also anything and anyone you touch. These airborne particles could be all over you and then unknowingly you transfer them to your vehicle, your house, and your family as you bring them home. If you are working in your home then not only could the fibers travel with you but an improperly protected worksite could allow those fibers to travel through the building naturally and via the HVAC system.
We’ve even heard stories of the powder residue from a drug clearing ending up on a dogs fur. When the owners family gave the dog a pat they were then infected. Proper training will teach you the many ways you could potentially bring dangerous fibers, dust and residue home with you and how to prevent that from happening. If you can’t get the training then hire people who are. You’ll be protecting more than just yourself, you’ll be protecting your family.