Asbestos and Understanding Your Responsibilities as a Building Owner

In my eighteen (18) years as consultant, I’ve seen a lot of oversight of environmental regulations (regs) by a number of clients. Typically, these oversights are not due to negligence. Rather, I find, it’s purely a lack of awareness of the environmental regs that apply to their specific industry. If I had to narrow down two (2) of the most overlooked environmental regulations in the asbestos world, the 1st award would go to…The United State Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA’s) National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), which requires an asbestos survey prior to demolition and renovation projects, regardless of the date of construction. And as a reminder, renovation even includes routine maintenance activities, which is likely a part of your day-to-day operations. I recently dusted-off an old article that I wrote on this topic back 2012 that helps demystify the regulation a bit, as well as touches on some of the history of asbestos, and the infamous misconception that “my building was built after 1980 so I don’t have any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and don’t need an asbestos survey”. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, here.

For the 2nd most overlooked asbestos reg, the award should actually go to two (2) regs; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Construction Industry Asbestos Standard (29CFR 1926.1101[K)] and General Industry Asbestos Standard (29CFR 1910.1001[J]) for Hazard Communication (HAZCOM). The reason these two (2) regs get the award for 2nd runner-up is, that typically the U.S. EPA NESHAP reg brings to light the ACMs the building owners have in their buildings through the asbestos survey process. Where things typical fall short, is once they have identified the ACMs, most clients don’t realize that after they fulfill the NESHAP requirement, now OSHA’s regulations come into play. And sometimes the clients don’t realize it, but the OSHA regulations may have already been in effect simply based on when the building was constructed. See, OSHA’s regs don’t necessarily require you to conduct an asbestos survey Rather, they state that certain materials must be “presumed” to contain asbestos based on the construction/installation date, these are what are called presumed ACMs (PACMs). OSHA defines PACMs as, any thermal system insulation (e.g. pipe insulation or boiler insulation), surfacing materials (e.g. fireproofing, popcorn ceiling texture), and asphalt and vinyl flooring materials installed prior to 1980. This means that if you own a building that was constructed in 1962 and you have any of the above referenced materials still present, you have PACMs that need to be managed under the OSHA standards. Beyond the PACMs, OSHA also goes on to say that if the building owner has actual knowledge, or knows through the exercise of due diligence, that other materials are asbestos-containing, they too must be managed in accordance with the standards.

In my webinar on July 8, 2020, titled Asbestos and Understanding Your Responsibilities as a Building Owner, I took a dive into the specifics of the OSHA requirements for hazard communication regarding asbestos. The webinar covered the specific duties of the building owners including employee and contractor notification, employee training and types of training options, signage and labeling requirements, the benefits of implementing an effective operations and maintenance plan, and much more.

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