Current Best Practices for Preventing Asbestos Exposure Among Brake and Clutch Repair Workers
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- Concerns About Asbestos Exposure for Mechanics
- How to Tell if Asbestos Brake or Clutch Components Contain Asbestos
- Work Practices to Follow
- Protecting Yourself for Home Mechanics
- Disposal of Waste That Contains Asbestos
This information can help professional automotive technicians and home mechanics who repair and replace brakes and clutches. By law, most professional automotive shops must follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) regulations at 29 CFR 1910.1001 and specifically paragraph (f)(3) and Appendix F. These are mandatory measures that employers must implement for automotive brake and clutch inspection, disassembly, repair, and assembly operations. State and local governments with employees who perform brake and clutch work in states without OSHA-approved state plans must follow the identical regulations found under the EPA Asbestos Worker Protection Rule. While home mechanics are not required to follow the OSHA work practices (or the identical requirements under the EPA Asbestos Worker Protection Rule), by using these practices home mechanics can minimize potential exposure to asbestos if it is present and thereby reduce their risk of developing any asbestos-related diseases.
See OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin on brake and clutch repair.
Concerns About Asbestos Exposure for Mechanics
Because some, but not all, automotive brakes and clutches available or in use today may contain asbestos, professional automotive technicians and home mechanics who repair and replace brakes and clutches may be exposed to asbestos dust. Brake and clutch dust can be seen when a brake disk, drum, clutch cover, or the wheel is removed from a car, truck, or other equipment. There are also many small dust particles that cannot be seen with the eye. If the brakes contain asbestos, the dust may contain asbestos fibers, which could be inhaled.
How to Tell if Asbestos Brake or Clutch Components Contain Asbestos
You cannot tell whether brake or clutch components contain asbestos simply by looking at them. For newer vehicles and parts, auto manufacturers, auto parts retailers and packaging information, such as labels or Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), may be able to tell you whether or not your brake or clutch components contain asbestos. For older vehicles,or vehicles that have had brakes replaced, you may not be able to easily find out if the brake or clutch components contain asbestos.
As a best practice, OSHA states that mechanics should assume that all brakes have asbestos-type shoes. Worn non-asbestos-type brakes cannot be readily distinguished from asbestos-type shoes. If a mechanic assumes incorrectly that a shoe is a non-asbestos type and fails to utilize brake dust control procedures, increased asbestos exposure may result.
Work Practices to Follow
If you work in a commercial automotive shop that performs work on more than five brake or clutch jobs per week, OSHA regulations require the use of one of the following work practices or an equivalent method such as the spray can/solvent system:
- Negative-Pressure Enclosure/HEPA Vacuum System Method: This type of enclosure and vacuum system has a special box with clear plastic walls or windows, which fits tightly around a brake or clutch assembly to prevent asbestos exposure.
- Low Pressure/Wet Cleaning Method: This specially designed low-pressure spray equipment wets down the brake assembly and catches the runoff in a special basin to prevent airborne brake dust from spreading in the work area.
If you work in a commercial automotive shop that performs work on no more than five brake or clutch jobs per week, OSHA regulations allow the following method instead:
- Wet Wipe Method: This method involves using a spray bottle or other device capable of delivering a fine mist of water, or amended water (water with a detergent), at low pressure to wet all brake and clutch parts. The brakes can then be wiped clean with a cloth.
Protecting Yourself for Home Mechanics
If you are not able to determine whether your brakes or clutch contain asbestos, you may want to consider having your brakes or clutch serviced at a commercial automotive shop. As noted above, OSHA requires special work practices for professional automotive technicians. If, however,this is not possible and you do not have access to the equipment professional automotive shops use to comply with the OSHA work practices, you may want to consider using the wet wipe method described in this brochure. This method has been deemed acceptable by OSHA for shops that service no more than five brake or clutch jobs per week.
Don'ts for Home Mechanics:
- Do not use compressed air for cleaning. Compressed air blows dust into the air.
- Do not clean brakes or clutches with a dry rag, brush (wet or dry), or garden hose.
- Do not use an ordinary wet/dry vac without a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to vacuum dust. Invisible particles of brake or clutch dust can stay in the air and on your clothes long after a job is complete.
- Avoid taking work clothing inside the home or tracking dust through the house after performing brake and clutch work to prevent exposing your family to dust particles that may contain asbestos.
Do's for Home Mechanics:
- Use pre-ground, ready-to-install parts.
- If a brake or clutch lining must be drilled,grooved, cut, beveled, or lathe-turned, use low speeds to keep down the amount of dust created.
- Use machinery with a local exhaust dust collection system equipped with HEPA filtration to prevent dust exposures and work area contamination.
- Change into clean clothes before going inside the home and wash soiled clothes separately.
- Minimize exposure to others by keeping bystanders, as well as food and drinks, away from the work area.
Disposal of Waste That Contains Asbestos
Employers of professional automotive technicians must ensure that they or their waste haulers dispose of waste that contains brake or clutch dust, including wet rags used to wipe this dust, in accordance with Federal and local regulations, including the OSHA asbestos waste disposal regulations. Brake and clutch dust and other asbestos waste must be collected and disposed of in sealed, impermeable containers that are appropriately labeled (see 29 CFR 1910.1001(k)(6) and 29 CFR 1910.1001(j)(4)). These regulations do not apply to home mechanics. For home mechanics, EPA recommends that asbestos waste be double bagged and disposed of following appropriate local regulations to minimize exposure. You may contact your state agency for more disposal and other information.