When it comes to Maintenance & Operations and Public Works, jobs get dirty – real dirty. Sometimes you are covered in asbestos, lead or literally sh*t. What you do after you are covered in the dirt of the job is the most important measure you can take to protect yourself and your co-workers.
When the job is done, you need to decontaminate. How you sterilize is the key to reducing your exposure to chronic illnesses and disease. Recently, I conducted training for asbestos and lead. During this training, the guys begged me to take a look at their change out facilities because they were concerned that they might be cross-contaminating their lunchroom and locker room.
CalOSHA requires and it is truly the only option you should choose to decontaminate is to have separate rooms for your asbestos. Lead or sh*t clothing and your street clothes. But how those rooms are configured is equally essential.
The rooms should be separate. And by separate I mean accessed thru different entrances. The decon room should not be accessed only thru the street clothes room. And vice versa. Sure, you will walk from one to the other, but the order is highly relevant.
When you come to work in your street clothes, you want to put your clothes in the locker and take the clean work clothes and put them on. And what you don’t want is one of your coworkers walking thru the clean locker room with their Tyvek suit on thereby contaminating your locker.
So when you are wearing your Tyvek suit and have lead and asbestos all over you, how do you enter the decon room? Thru a separate entrance of course.
The rooms should each have a separate entrance, and there should be a path from the decon room to the shower then to the general restroom then to the locker room.
Never the lunchroom
The decon room or access to the decon room should never seep into the lunchroom. The decon room should be completely isolated from the lunchroom. No doors, no windows, no access, no HVAC connections.
Another way that asbestos seeps into other areas of the facilities is thru the HVAC connections. The decon room needs to be completely isolated. HVAC systems need to be separate and distinct closed loop systems.
What to do next
As part of your inspection process and facilities update plans consider reviewing your locker rooms and decontamination room to ensure there is no cross-contamination.