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Occupational Health & Safety

Floor Tile Management

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires that all floor tile installed prior to 1981 be presumed to contain asbestos, unless testing has proven otherwise. At UConn, the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) maintains files that contain extensive test results of floor tile. Any tile that has not been tested is presumed to contain asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that, due to its physical properties, was used extensively in building products from the early 1900's to the late 1970's. Since that time, several adverse health effects have been found to be associated with exposure to asbestos. Consequently, special controls are required for the maintenance and removal of asbestos-containing materials.

The types of materials that produce the greatest threat to health are friable asbestos-containing materials; in other words, those materials that when dry, can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure. These materials have the greatest tendency to release the asbestos fibers into the air, allowing them to become inhaled-the primary route of exposure. Materials like vinyl asbestos floor tile are considered non-friable because they cannot be reduced to powder by hand pressure. The Environmental Protection Agency originally developed these two terms to differentiate between materials that would readily release asbestos fibers when damaged or disturbed and those materials that were unlikely to result in significant fiber release. The EPA does not consider merely "broken" tiles to be friable. Floor tile is not considered to be a health hazard until it has lost its structural matrix and has been reduced to many small pieces.

Floor tile that contains asbestos does not present an automatic health hazard, but it does produce a maintenance problem. Removal of floor tile has to be conducted following strict Department of Public Health (DPH) regulations and the tile has to be disposed of as regulated waste, not as regular trash. Broken and loose tiles should be reported to Facilities Operations or appropriate maintenance personnel who will contact Architectural and Engineering Services (AES) to arrange for removal or disposal, as required by DPH regulations.

Furthermore, prior to all renovation or demolition projects, an inspection for asbestos-containing materials must be conducted. This includes such projects as the removal of carpeting with floor tile or mastic (adhesive) underneath it. If the floor tile or mastic is found to contain asbestos, the carpet may have to be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. See Asbestos Procedures for Carpet Removal and Installation for additional information.

To arrange for an inspection for asbestos-containing materials prior to a renovation, such as a carpet removal, contact Facilities Work Order Control at 6-3113 or online at http://fo.uconn.edu/wopolicy.html. For health and safety related inquiries, contact Valerie Brangan at 6-3613.