PAT ROUNDS – What in the heck are those?

Dr. Aruna Turaga, RGA’s Laboratory Director just reported the excellent news that our PCM analysts just passed another AIHA PAT Round with flying colors.  And just exactly what does THAT mean in plain English?  A quick lesson in asbestos and heavy metals is in order!

When asbestos is removed from a building the asbestos abatement contractor is required to test the air the workers breathe in order to make sure that the workers are not exposed to hazardous levels of airborne asbestos and that they are using the correct type of respirators. Prudent building owners also hire an independent third party consulting industrial hygiene firm to test the air in and around where the asbestos is being removed to ensure that no one else on or near the job site is exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos. The industrial hygienist also conducts a visual assessment at the completion of the project to make sure all the asbestos was removed according to plan and tests the air to make sure that the work area is safe for re-occupancy by the public.  When a firm like RGA performs the air sampling, we analyze the sampling media using a Phase Contrast Microscope following procedures established by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Thus the process of analyzing the sampling media is referred to as Phase Contrast Microscopy or PCM. In order for RGA to ensure that the sample has been read correctly by the microscopist, all of our employees who collect and analyze airborne asbestos samples are required to participate in a test every three month to measure their proficiency at reading the samples correctly. AIHA manages the proficiency testing which is referred to as Proficiency Analytical Testing (PAT) Program.  Although it is quite expensive to participate in the PAT rounds, we believe that this investment in our employee’s gives our clients the highest level of confidence in our employee’s ability to accurately analyze the air samples. Errors in performing this type of analysis can cause a project cleanup area to be cleared for re-occupancy when there are still asbestos fibers present in the air.  This is just another way that industrial hygiene firms help their clients manage the liability associated with owning facilities where asbestos might be present.

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JoAnn Copperud, CEO – Emeryville, CA


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