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Selection and use of protective clothing for asbestos-related activities

The following advice is specific to guidance titled – Sealing, painting, coating, and cleaning asbestos cement products, and Drilling of asbestos-containing material.

Advice on Personal Protective Equipment, including respirators for persons working in asbestos removal roles, or working in an on-going way with asbestos is available in Managing asbestos in the workplace Compliance Code (Appendix H) and the Removing asbestos in workplaces Compliance Code.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) may need to be used in combination with other effective control measures when working with asbestos-containing materials. If PPE is required, the employer has a duty to provide employees with suitable equipment to enable them to conduct the activity safely and without risks to health.

The selection and use of PPE for an asbestos-related activity needs to be based on risk assessments and determined by a competent person with experience and knowledge of the activity and the potential risk to health. The ease of decontaminating the equipment needs to be one of the factors considered when choosing PPE. Where possible, disposable equipment needs to be used such as disposable respirators and coveralls that can be disposed of as asbestos waste after the asbestos-related activity is completed.

When selecting protective clothing for an asbestos-related activity, factors such as potential heat stress, fire risk and electrical hazards related to the activity need to also be considered. Clothing made from wool or other materials that attract fibrous dusts should not be worn during an asbestos-related activity.

If an asbestos-related activity requires the use of other chemicals that are also hazardous substances, a further risk assessment must be performed. The relevant material safety data sheets (MSDSs) must be referred to for information on the appropriate PPE to be used and any other precautions to be taken when using the substances (the manufacturer can supply the MSDSs).

Coveralls

In most cases, coveralls need to be worn when conducting asbestos-related activities. A risk assessment for the task needs to be conducted if there is uncertainty whether coveralls are be worn. It needs to take into account the nature and duration of the work, the type and condition of the asbestos-containing material (ACM) and the likelihood that dust will be generated during the task.

Disposable coveralls are preferred to reusable coveralls. They need to be of a suitable standard to prevent penetration of asbestos fibres as far as practicable.  Disposable coveralls rated type 5, category 3 (prEN ISO 13982 –1) or the equivalent would meet this standard. They should never be re-used and must be disposed of as asbestos waste after completion of the asbestos-related activity.

Coveralls need to have fitted hoods and cuffs and be made from material capable of providing adequate protection against asbestos fibre penetration. Coveralls with open pockets and/or velcro fastenings should not be used because these features can be easily contaminated and are difficult to decontaminate. Fitted hoods need to always be worn over the straps of respirators, and loose cuffs need to be sealed with tape.

The coverall legs need to be worn over footwear – tucking them in can let dust into the footwear. Asbestos fibres must be prevented from being transported outside the asbestos work area on the overalls. Thoroughly wet wipe or vacuum dust from the coveralls using a designated vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter. After decontamination, disposable coveralls need to be disposed of as asbestos waste. Non-disposable coveralls must also be disposed of as asbestos waste or stored in a sealed asbestos waste bag for laundering. Laundering of asbestos-contaminated coveralls is not recommended however, because decontamination cannot be guaranteed.

Footwear and gloves

When selecting appropriate safety footwear for an asbestos-related activity, avoid lace-up boots because they can be difficult to clean and asbestos dust can gather in the laces and eyelets. Laceless boots such as gumboots are preferred where practicable. Footwear with safety steel caps may be required depending on the nature of the workplace where the asbestos-related activity is to occur. Safety footwear (and all other PPE) must be decontaminated before leaving the asbestos-related activity area for any reason.

The use of protective gloves needs to be determined by a risk assessment of the asbestos-related activity. If significant amounts of asbestos fibres may be present disposable gloves need to be worn. Protective gloves can be unsuitable if dexterity is required. Employees must clean their hands and fingernails thoroughly after work, and any gloves used must be disposed of as asbestos waste.