NAIMA and its members are committed to protecting the health and safety of consumers, employees and workers who manufacture and install fiberglass, rock wool, and slag wool insulation products. NAIMA cooperates with government organizations to provide documentation that demonstrates that the products are safe to manufacture, install and use. NAIMA and its members have invested tens of millions of dollars in independent health and safety research projects in the United States and abroad.
Fiberglass, rock wool and slag wool insulation products are supported by over 75 years of scientific research. This research, aimed at investigating the possible human health effects of insulation products, includes epidemiological studies, worker health studies, research with laboratory animals, exposure studies, and fiber biosolubility studies.
Click on the topics below to learn more about the health and safety of fiberglass, rock and slag wool insulation. If you want even more information, please check out the health and safety section of our resource library.
Safe Handling Recommendations–+
These recommendations are applicable to all work involving fiberglass, rock wool and slag wool products.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
- Loose-fitting, long-sleeved and long-legged clothing is recommended to prevent irritation1.
- A headcover is also recommended, especially when working with material overhead.
- Gloves are also recommended. Skin irritation cannot occur if there is no contact with the skin.
- Do not tape sleeves or pants at wrists or ankles.
- Remove Synthetic Vitreous Fiber (SVF) dust from the work clothes before leaving work to reduce potential for skin irritation.
Wear Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment
- To minimize upper respiratory tract irritation, measures should be taken to control the exposure. Such measures will be dictated by the work environment and may include appropriate respiratory protective equipment. See OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard.
- When appropriate, eye protection should be worn whenever SVF products are being handled.
- Personal protective equipment should be properly fitted and worn when required.
Removal of Fibers From the Skin and Eyes
- If fibers accumulate on the skin, do not rub or scratch. Never remove fibers from the skin by blowing with compressed air.
- If fibers are seen penetrating the skin, they may be removed by applying and then removing adhesive tape so that the fibers adhere to the tape and are pulled out of the skin.
- SVF may be deposited in the eye. If this should happen, do not rub the eyes. Flush them with water or eyewash solution (if available). Consult a physician if irritation persists.
Minimize Dust Generation
- Keep the material in its packaging as long as practical and if possible.
- Tools that generate the least amount of dust should be used. If power tools are to be used, they should be equipped with appropriate dust collection systems as necessary.
- Keep work areas clean and free of scrap SVF material.
- Do not use compressed air for clean-up unless there is no other effective method. If compressed air must be used, proper procedures and control measures must be implemented. Other workers in the immediate area must be removed or similarly protected.
- Where repair or maintenance of equipment that is either insulated with SVF or covered with settled SVF dust is necessary, clean the equipment first with HEPA vacuum equivalent (where possible) or wipe the surface clean with a wet rag to remove excess dust and loose fibers. If compressed air must be used proper procedures and control measures must be implemented. Other workers in the immediate area must be removed or similarly protected.
- Avoid unnecessary handling of scrap materials by placing them in waste disposal containers and keep equipment as close to working areas as possible to prevent the release of fibers.
Maintain Adequate Ventilation
- Unless other proper procedures and control measures have been implemented, dust collection systems should be used in manufacturing and fabrication settings where appropriate and feasible.
- Exhausted air containing SVFs should be filtered prior to recirculation into interior workspaces.
- If ventilation systems are used to capture SVFs, they should be regularly checked and maintained.
Product Stewardship Program for Worker Protection–+
Product Stewardship Program
The NAIMA Product Stewardship Program’s (NPSP) work practices apply to the manufacture, fabrication, installation, removal and other work settings where workers are subject to comparable exposures to Synthetic Vitreous Fibers (SVFs). The Program incorporates all applicable provisions of the Hazard Communication Standard as already required by law. While NAIMA members are responsible for compliance with these voluntary guidelines in their own operations, NAIMA and its member companies recommend and encourage compliance with these guidelines by other employers and their workers.
Perhaps the most significant feature of the NAIMA Product Stewardship Program is the voluntary permissible exposure limit (PEL) for fiberglass, rock and slag wool. The adoption of a voluntary one fiber per cubic centimeter (1 f/cc)PEL reaffirms the exposure limit that has been recommended by industry, government and various authoritative bodies for several years.
Comprehensive Work Practices
The NAIMA Product Stewardship Program commits manufacturers to use product design, engineering controls, work practices, respiratory protection or a combination of any or all of these measures to bring fiber exposures to the voluntary 1 f/cc PEL. To strengthen these control measures, the Product Stewardship Program specifies comprehensive work practices for those working with SVFs. NAIMA provides training DVD’s to help educate workers and employers about these recommended work practices. NAIMA provides educational tools such as DVD’s and literature to further explain the recommended work practices.
Recommended Respiratory Protection
A fundamental aspect of the recommended work practices deals with when and where to use respiratory protection. The NAIMA Product Stewardship Program recommends respiratory protection whenever exposures on a job exceed the 1 f/cc 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) PEL. The type of respirator recommended is an N95 series dust respirator certified by NIOSH.
The NAIMA Product Stewardship Program includes an exposure database to help contractors and workers determine the level of potential exposure to fiberglass, rock wool or slag wool for a given task. Exposure monitoring and an exposure database are closely related to the respiratory protection guidelines and offer contractors a way to determine whether respiratory protection is necessary for a particular job. This will not only help contractors follow the Product Stewardship Program, but may also greatly reduce the burdens that contractors would otherwise incur under OSHA’S Respiratory Protection Standard.
Health Testing – The Most Comprehensive in the Industry–+
Synthetic Vitreous Fibers (SVFs) are some of the most tested products in the world. Research over the last 70 years clearly demonstrates the safety of these products.
In a press release announcing the updated report IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 81, Man-Made Vitreous Fibers, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated that: “Epidemilogic studies published during the 15 years since the previous IARC Monographs review of these fibres in 1988 provide no evidence of increased risks of lung cancer or of mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the body cavities) from occupational exposures during manufacture of these materials, and inadequate evidence overall of any cancer risk.” IARC further stated that “the more commonly used vitreous fiber wools including insulation glass wool, rock (stone) wool and slag wool are now considered not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans (Group 3).
- This is a mechanical irritation, not a chemical irritation, and does not meet the US OSHA HAZCOM definition of “irritation” specified in Appendix A to 29 C.F.R. 1910.1200.