Center for Asbestos Safety

What is asbestos?

From the Asbestos Institute, an association of asbestos producers:

"Asbestos is a commercial term given to six naturally occurring minerals that are incombustible and separable into filaments: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite…

"chrysotile, or white asbestos, currently accounts for more than 98% of world asbestos consumption. Its fibers are characterized by high tensile strength, resistance to alkalies, high flexibility and good spinnability."

From the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences:

"Asbestos is the name we use to describe a group of natural mineral fibers that are known for their strength and fire-resistant properties. Asbestos has been used in thermal insulation and fire proofing for the construction industry, and in brake and clutch linings for the automotive industry. Although asbestos fibers come in blue, brown, and green colors, most asbestos used in the United States is white asbestos, and is called chrysotile. Some asbestos fibers are so small that a microscope is necessary to see them. These small fibers can be floating in the air, and we can breath them deeply into our lungs, where they can become lodged. Inhaling asbestos fibers increases the chances of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the body cavities), and asbestos, which cause shortness of breath and coughing." Asbestos is mineral fiber that hurts people when microscopic fibers are inhaled into the deep recesses of the lungs. Asbestos was used in many, many applications over the years.

Who is exposed to asbestos today?

In 2001 OSHA estimated that 1.3 million U.S. employees in construction and general industry face significant asbestos exposure on the job. The construction industry poses the biggest dangers to workers, particularly during the removal of asbestos during renovation or demolition of old buildings. Employees can also be exposed to fibers during the manufacture of asbestos products (such as textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials) and during automotive brake and clutch repair work.

What should you do if you were exposed? Find out here.

The OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program

When the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Act) became law in 1970, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had no program for investigating complaints filed by workers under the Act's Whistleblower Protection Program (WPP), Section 11(c).

Four years after becoming law, a dedicated group was created to conduct retaliation investigations, and in 1975 a central whistleblower investigation office was established. The WPP has continued to evolve over the years, and today it is managed by OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Office of Investigative Assistance (OIA). The OIA, among other things, develops WPP policies and procedures, administers appeals of cases dismissed under Section 11(c), and provides technical assistance and legal interpretations to field investigative staff.

Who it Protects

The WPP was established to protect employee by providing a means to file a complaint against an employer who it is believed had taken discriminatory action as a result of a employee exercising a legal right(s) to an activity protected under the Act (e.g., filing, caused to be filed, participated in, or assisted in a proceeding). Specifically, Section 11(c) of the Act prohibits any person from discharging or in any manner discriminating against any employee because the employee has exercised rights under the Act.

Center for Asbestos
Safety in the Workplace