Situational Awareness is Key to Avoiding Asbestos Exposures

STOP LOOK THINKby Diane Blackburn-Zambetti, Director of Policy and Prevention Education

This article is the first of a three-part series regarding situational awareness and its application in preventing asbestos exposure:

  • Part one will address the definition of situational awareness (SA) and the areas in which SA can be applied
  • Part two will address SA in regards to encountering asbestos during DIY projects
  • Part three will address SA in regards to encountering asbestos on the jobsite

Many of you may have heard or used the term “situational awareness” without fully understanding what it means or knowing of the many areas in which this concept can be applied. At the end of this three-part series of articles, you will gain a better understanding of the term, as well as its many areas of use when it comes to preventing asbestos exposure.

Simply stated, situational awareness is the concept of knowing and being aware of what is around you. SA is an ongoing process. With this awareness and knowledge, you are less likely to be caught off guard and you will have the ability to make better decisions when needed. SA can have many applications in your everyday life. A few examples include: work, DIY projects, security, walking, and parenting. It is especially useful for recognizing the presence of asbestos before exposure.

There are five defined levels of awareness:

  1. You are in a state similar to daydreaming
  2. You are relaxed but still aware and reacting to your surroundings
  3. You are focused and aware of your surroundings and ready to react (i.e. walking on ice)
  4. You have a feeling of wide eyes and hair standing on end with your heart beating harder and faster, but you are still functioning
  5. You are no longer able to function or respond — you are “frozen”

You likely apply the practice of SA without realizing it. It is important that people are aware of their surroundings and the hazards that may be present, such as asbestos. Looking out for your own safety, as well as others nearby, is a key aspect of situational awareness.

SA can be consciously practiced and improved through the STOP-LOOK-THINK method:

STOP          Engage your thought process before you act, and evaluate the situation.

LOOK          Scan the entire space for possible hazards, both at home and at work.

THINK          Consider the consequences of venturing into unsafe conditions, and determine the proper safety equipment.

Situational awareness allows us the opportunity to make rational decisions and act before being caught off guard. In the next installment of this three-part series, we will address the practice of situational awareness in preventing asbestos exposure during DIY projects.

Thank You to Our Heroes on Memorial Day

American flagsIn 2013, we published a blog post for Memorial Day. This year, we want to take a look back at this post, as it remains important. The original post follows:

Memorial Day is the time when we honor those who served our country and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation honors those men and women who lost their lives as a result of their service, including those who served in the military and succumbed to malignant mesothelioma.

“In honor of those who have fallen victim to mesothelioma and for those who have been exposed and may develop mesothelioma in the future, the Foundation dedicates our efforts to continuing to fund peer-reviewed medical research that we hope will lead to prevention, early detection, more effective treatments and eventually a cure,” said General H. Steven Blum, a member of the Board of Directors of the Meso Foundation.

One third of mesothelioma patients worked in shipyards or are veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their time of service. Those who serve in the military often go on to careers in the public sector serving as policemen, firemen and first responders where they again suffer the insult of asbestos exposure.

General Blum last served as Deputy Commander, U.S. Northern Command in addition to serving as Vice Commander, U.S. Element North American Aerospace Defense Command.  Prior to these last positions he served as the 25th Chief of the National Guard Bureau. He retired from both the Army and National Guard in 2010.

To learn more about asbestos exposure in the military, visit curemeso.org/asbestos.

Meso Foundation Recognizes Workers Memorial Day

Asbestos WorkerWorkers Memorial Day is held annually on April 28, and it consists of dozens of local events held all over the United States. More details about this event can be found in this this post. This year, the Meso Foundation will participate in the Workers Memorial Day Ceremony that will be held tomorrow in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Diane Blackburn-Zambetti, Director of Policy and Prevention Education at the Meso Foundation, will be speaking at the ceremony in memory of her father, Dale Blackburn, a UA Pipefitter and pleural mesothelioma victim.

Diane will focus her presentation on workplace asbestos exposure and the subsequent risk of developing mesothelioma. This type of occupational exposure can, and does, cause workplace fatalities for many years after the initial exposure. The latency period between exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis can range from 20-50 years. Because of this, workers who were exposed decades ago are now developing this cancer.

Workers Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have lost their lives on the job. According to AFL-CIO, 4,628 individuals were killed on the job and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases in 2012 alone. In the same year, nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, and research suggests these numbers may actually be two or three times higher.

Held on April 28, Workers Memorial Day is the anniversary of the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1970. Additionally, Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act in December of 1970. This act holds employers responsible for providing employees with a safe and healthy work environment.

How Past Asbestos Use Still Affects Life Today

Asbestos in AmblerIn 1875, Ambler, Pennsylvania was the largest manufacturer of asbestos insulation and asbestos-containing products in the United States. Asbestos manufacturing brought economic growth to Ambler. With the growth came the knowledge that exposure to this  “miracle fiber” caused horrible disease, such as mesothelioma. Over the next 140 years, asbestos continued to contaminate the grounds, creeks, and playgrounds of Ambler.

Ambler, PA has over 3 million tons of asbestos waste left over from past manufacturing. The “Ambler Piles” (literally piles of asbestos) were the playground of many until the 1980s, and the area later became a superfund site.

In 2009, another Ambler asbestos waste site became the BoRit Superfund site. Despite this designation, this parcel of land has been proposed to become the home of a multi-story housing complex.

In 2015, the BoRit Citizen Advisory Group is still organizing efforts to properly clean up the town and keep the citizens of Ambler safe and informed. The Meso Foundation had the opportunity to organize an educational presentation on April 1, 2015. Diane Blackburn-Zambetti of the Meso Foundation was joined by Dr. Keith Cengel, and Richard Pepino to meet with community members to discuss prevention, research, treatment and more regarding asbestos and asbestos-related diseases. Diane helped residents learn about their resources and meet others whose lives have been impacted by asbestos. This meeting was well attended.

The EPA estimates that asbestos is still present in tens of millions of homes, government buildings, schools, and has also been found naturally-occurring in the soil in several locations in the United States, sometimes in very close proximity to inhabited areas. According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an estimated 1.3 million construction employees continue to be occupationally exposed to asbestos. When disturbed, asbestos particles become airborne and are easily inhaled. No amount of exposure is deemed safe.

Contrary to popular belief, asbestos has not yet been fully banned by the U.S. government, but even if it were, the problem of exposures occurring as a result of past use continues. All individuals who have already been exposed and those who will continue to be exposed to the asbestos already present in our environment will remain at risk of mesothelioma. It is important to learn about the dangers of asbestos and where it is present in order to prevent exposure. This information and more is available at curemeso.org/asbestos.

Recognizing Workers Memorial Day on April 28

Asbestos WorkerWorkers Memorial Day is a day set aside by the unions of the AFL-CIO when we honor those who have passed either on thejob or from a job related injury. The day we also acknowledge the grieving of friends, family and community. On this day we re-evaluate our thoughts regarding safety and recommit to safety on the job.

April 28 is also the same date that OSHA was established as was the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970.  Under this Act employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy work environment.

Despite the existence of OSHA, work areas are not alwayssafe. Every day, workers are exposed to many physical, chemical and airborne hazards, which after many years, still include asbestos. Asbestos diseases claim the lives of over 10,000 lives every year. Asbestos is still present on many job sites. Job site fatalities CAN happen many years later from occupational exposures.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation realizes the importance of reducing occupational and take-home exposures through education of the workforce. Through education, we strive to eliminate asbestos exposures, therefore reducing asbestos disease deaths. We work with trades unions to deliver asbestos awareness education on a new level, including the following: anatomy, asbestos, asbestos diseases, other cancers caused by asbestos and proper communication with your health care provider. We help you understand HOW asbestos affects you and your family.

This year, on April 28 Diane Blackburn-Zambetti will be speaking during the Workers Memorial Day ceremony in Pittsburgh, PA.

For more information about asbestos exposure and who is at risk, visit curemeso.org/asbesto.