Asbestos Abatement Technicians
Exploring this Job
Contact your local union representing this trade. It could offer a wealth of information regarding the job, including training programs and job openings. You may be able to speak with a journeyman and learn what it's really like to work in the field. You probably will not be allowed on a worksite, but you may be allowed to try on a respirator unit.
Visit your local library and read about asbestos, its history, use, benefits, and potential hazards. Visit the EPA Web site (https://www.epa.gov) to learn more about potential hazards in your environment and what you can do about them.
Is your school safe? Ask school officials or your school board if your facility has been tested and request the results from the test. If it hasn't been tested and the school was built before 1980, gather support from students, parents, and teachers to demand testing.
If asbestos is found to be present in a building, technicians assess its condition. When materials such as ceiling tile or wall panels are determined to be undamaged, trained technicians coat them to seal them. Asbestos is removed only in cases of serious damage because it can cost a building owner a great deal of money and the process can be dangerous when not performed properly. If the materials are damaged, technicians install a covering to keep the fibers from being released into the air of the room.
Asbestos building inspectors collect samples and analyze them under a microscope in a laboratory. If a sample tests positive, the asbestos must be contained or removed in accordance with strict federal and state regulations.
Asbestos abatement technicians who have been trained in a state-approved program remove the asbestos with a variety of tools, procedures, and safety measures. They first prepare an area for work, which involves putting in a series of enclosures and possibly constructing scaffolds. In order to protect themselves and the areas outside of the enclosure, technicians wear disposable protective gear from head to toe and breathe through special masks. Using the "wet method," technicians apply a mixture of water or other wetting agent to the asbestos to prevent the release of particles into the air. They use a variety of hand tools, such as scrapers and guns that spray chemicals, depending on the kind of material being removed. Mechanical tools are never used for fear of spreading fibers into the air. An air monitor continuously takes samples to ensure hazardous particles are few and are kept within the containment area.
Technicians then place the materials in plastic bags and prepare them for transport to a disposal site. Once the work has been completed, inspectors again survey and analyze the site to determine if it has been properly cleaned. If samples still show signs of asbestos, technicians must return to the site to remove any remaining asbestos-containing materials. If the work site is clear, the technicians then take down the enclosures and scaffolds, and the site is again open for use.