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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Automobile Mechanics Should Be Cautious About Asbestos Exposure

Many brakes and clutches used in new and recent model automobiles do not contain asbestos. However, it has not been totally eliminated. Some reports have indicated that many mechanics and employees in the automotive repair shops as well as do-it-yourselfers are unaware that asbestos may be present in both old and replacement brakes and clutches.

OSHA’s asbestos standard requires the use of controls and safe work practices when employees work with brake shoes and clutches that contain asbestos. These requirements are detailed in 29 CFR 1910.1001 and specifically 1910.1001(f)(3) and Appendix F of the standard - Work Practices and Engineering Controls for Automotive Brake and Clutch Inspection, Disassembly, Repair and Assembly ( The requirements also are discussed in the Federal Register at 59 FR 40964, 40985-87 (August 10, 1994) and 60 FR 33983 (June 29, 1995), as well as in OSHA Directive CPL 2-2.63 (revised).

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fiber that is highly heat resistant, can cause serious health problems when inhaled into the lungs. If products containing asbestos are disturbed, thin, lightweight asbestos fibers can be released into the air. Persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers deposited in the lung. Fibers embedded in the lung tissue over time may result in lung diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. It can take from 10 to 40 years or more for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear. Smoking increases the risk of developing illness from asbestos exposure.

All automotive brake and clutch repair facilities in the United States must comply with the OSHA asbestos standard. The proper use of engineering controls and work practices by properly trained employees working on automotive brakes and clutches will reduce their asbestos exposure below the permissible exposure level of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air, expressed as an 8-hour time-weighted average. Respiratory protection is not required during brake and clutch jobs where the control methods described below are used.

The two preferred OSHA methods to control asbestos dust during brake and clutch repair and service are: (1) a negative pressure enclosure/HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum system, and (2) the low pressure/wet cleaning method. The employer may use other methods (in conjunction with written procedures), to reduce exposure to levels equivalent to the negative pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system. For facilities that inspect, disassemble, reassemble and/or repair five or fewer brake or clutch jobs per week, the wet method (described in paragraph D of Appendix F) can be used. The spray can/solvent system method can be used as an alternative preferred method since it meets the equivalency criterion of the negative pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system method. Proper training is essential to ensure that employees use the methods in an effective manner.

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