Asbestos has negative influence on health, provoking the development of irreversible processes in airways and lungs. Asbestos health effects are not limited by respiratory system disorders, it affects other organs of the human body too. The most of diseases are work-related, i.e. people contact with asbestos on their work places. Besides providing proper safety on the work place, another important preventive measure is regular medical examinations of employees to detect potential problems as early as possible. This is how employers can minimize the potentially bigger damage to health associated with occupation.
It is highly important to provide people with extensive information regarding asbestos-related problems, consultations and advice for any issue related to work and health, including professional medical assistance. The key factor of preventive medicine is awareness of people regarding potential dangers and ways to avoid them or minimize the risks.
Only workers who pass the preliminary medical examination successfully are allowed for working on asbestos-containing sites. Asbestos can worsen specific health problems. There are limitations in who are allowed to wear personal protection units such as respirators. The EU Directive 2009/148/EC contains all requirements for medical control and assistance for asbestos-related workers. Health assessment must be performed every three years while a person is being exposed to asbestos (or work with the potential sources of exposure).
Such requirements lay specific responsibilities upon employers, including:
- arranging medical examination to assess the health of each employee before beginning working with asbestos to minimize the development of asbestos health effects;
- arranging regular medical testing for employees working on asbestos-related jobs every three years as minimum;
- arranging medical examination for employees after asbestos-related works are finished.
The occupational medicine is a separate sphere of medical services, and examinations for people involved in working with asbestos must be performed on professional occupational physicians or doctors specialized on it. Sometimes companies have qualified medical personnel in their staff. The examining doctor must be properly aware of the conditions of work on specific site.
In asbestos exposure there are many uncertainties, due to the lack of scientific researches and knowledge in this sphere. That is why an employee exposed to asbestos needs have ability to have medical check-up, and employer is obliged to provide such option. Even if the concentration of asbestos fibers is very low, this rule remains valid.
Even occasional, non-intensive works require medical control that must be offered to employees. For the employer such offer means that they must keep their employees aware of the risks and draw their attention to occupational healthcare services enabling them to use the offered options. Moreover, if an employee rejects such offers, an employer must continue offering them.
The long latency period for asbestos-related diseases make it obvious: even after finishing all asbestos-related work activity a person needs regular medical examinations as well. The major purpose of occupational medicine in this area is to detect any potential condition as early as possible. All records about post employments and results of medical checkups must be collected and saved.