Why Restoration Companies should not self-test for Asbestos

asbestos

Why Restoration Companies should not self-test for Asbestos

As the general contractor for property loss insurance claims, restoration companies are a wheel-house for renovation and repair related services, but most provide demolition, carpet cleaning, and rebuilding services in-house. After years of experience managing restoration projects, savvy contractors are tempted to look for ways to cut costs and headaches on project expenses by reducing subcontractor work. If you have ever had to deal with an insurance claim as a home owner, then you will know that these “Jack of all trade” business models require extensive management in order to adhere to integrity in their quality of work.

One common service that restoration contractors are tempted to bring “in-house” is environmental testing services, specifically asbestos testing. Before a contractor can demo water/mold/fire affected building materials, they must presume them to be asbestos containing materials (presumed ACMs), they are required by the State of Colorado to test for asbestos. Only a State-certified asbestos inspector can call a material non-detect for asbestos, otherwise, you can only assume the material to be asbestos containing. Good luck getting paid for the inspection as well, you cannot charge for an asbestos inspection unless the samples were collected by a State-certified Asbestos Consulting Firm. Health and safety are an important part of quality as well, it is important to make sure your workers are safe and protected, so that they are able to give the best quality of work to their ability. If you can’t trust a contractor to keep their employees safe, I would not trust them working on my home.

Mitigation field technicians come into contact with “suspect” asbestos containing material on a daily basis during demolition work. And while fast and cheap is an attractive business formula, worker protection for health and safety need to be a corporate priority over the bottom line. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) points to asbestos exposure studies clearly….that there is no safe levels of asbestos exposure (Source: https://www.asbestosnetwork.com/Worker-Safety/). In response to litigation cases against negligent companies, OSHA and the EPA have set baseline regulations for construction and abatement projects to mitigate the health risk of hard working field personnel and their families. Businesses that take care of their employees and are concerned with their safety and health, will have healthy, happy employees who will be able to perform to the best of their ability.

At BuildSafe, we care about the restoration companies we serve and know they have come to trust our environmental consulting firm to keep their clients and teammates healthy and safe over the years. In our past blogs, we emphasize how important it is for customers to get a third-party testing service to verify mold mitigation was done successfully, read the blog here: https://www.buildsafeenvironmental.com/blog/index.php/2018/09/27/asbestos-what-to-know-before-remodeling-your-home/. In this blog, we will focus on the top 5 risk areas restoration contractors take on by “self-testing” for asbestos containing building materials (ACBMs or ACMs). We want to ensure restoration contractors in Colorado’s Front Range communities do not become a “master of none” when it comes to the integrity/quality of environmental compliance.

 

*Top 5 risks companies take when they self-test

1. Improper Site Assessment and Sampling Collection

A State-certified Asbestos Building Inspector will know how to determine the number of samples to collect based on “suspect” materials and quantities in a work scope and quantities of materials to be removed. While the 3 day class breezes over how to do an asbestos inspection, many leave the class not understanding material classification, conditional assessment, potential spill identification, and homogeneity and functional space assessment. If a newly-certified CABI does not have extensive field experience, they will not collect the correct number of samples, risking to classify something that may contain asbestos as non-detect, which could in turn cause a major issue not only for the restoration company, but for the home or business owner as well. This happened to a Littleton family after an unlicensed contractor caused a major spill.  

 

2. All Inspections Require Formal Report Documentation

 The CDPHE (https://www.colorado.gov/cdphe/categories/services-and-information/environment/asbestos) specifies to consultants what must be included in the report, including but not limited to material description, functional spaces, and specific sampling coordinates. All items in the report must be in compliance and the report must be signed by the Certified Asbestos Building Inspector (CABI).

             Restoration companies likely do not meet the requirements because they don’t know what the requirements are, and they likely will not take the time to generate a formal report for every single asbestos inspection. A lab result with a COC is not a formal report, building a formal report is time consuming and takes a lot of experience and training! In our experience, even a trained field technician still will need occasional training on how to complete a final report which could be used as a legal document or as a reference for services performed for years to come. At BuildSafe, we conduct team meetings to keep up to date with the rules and regulations of asbestos, and brainstorm ideas to keep our clients happy with the report which is in essence the final product.

 

3. Must Keep Up-To-Date On Certifications, Insurance Requirements, and Health Records

Firm and individual certifications are required to be renewed annual.  State-certified inspectors are also required to sit through a refresher course once a year. If the course lapses or CDPHE license expires then you will not be able to practice. In our experience, even after completing the state certification, it will take anywhere from 3-6 months to properly train a CABI. General liability insurance, annual respirator fit tests, and physicals with pulmonary function exams are required annually for CABIs to ensure that you are in compliance with the guidelines of OSHA worker protection standards and keeping your employees safe. 

 

4. Puts The Company And Inspector At-Risk Of Fines, Jail Time, and Law Suits

If an asbestos inspection was not properly performed by a State-certified asbestos inspector, and the city or state asks to see your formal asbestos report and you cannot provide them one completed by a CABI, you could find yourself with a serious problem. The project may be shut down, you may be fined a daily fee of $25,000, and you may face criminal charges.

You do not want to find yourself in the middle of a civil lawsuit or be guilty of negligence. Negligence is high for new inspectors that do not have an experienced inspector to train them. Being a State-certified asbestos inspector is a life-long career where regulations are always changing and technical knowledge is understood with years of experience. It’s not as easy as it looks!

It will save you thousands of dollars to do the inspection before you start doing the work. The cost of an asbestos inspection is just a couple hundred dollars, causing an asbestos spill will end up costing tens of thousands, as well as possibly ending up in court or even jail.

 

 

 

          5.  All Worker Protection Is Now The Responsibility Of A Teammate Or Manager

If something happens, it is the employers fault. There are OSHA guidelines put in place to protect the workers from something as dangerous of asbestos exposure. You do not want to be responsible for putting someone’s health at risk.  EPA/OSHA violations result in big fines. It is the employer’s responsibility to understand these guidelines and make sure that your company is in compliance. (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3507.pdf)

OSHA requires a respiratory protection program is required for any workers potentially exposed to asbestos. Part of the rpp is the pulmonary function test, potential x-ray, and physical. Someone needs to administer and verify that all health records are up to date.  Now, the restoration company will need someone in charge of the Respiratory Protection Program to ensure it is OSHA compliant. If a business owner wants to reap the benefits of having employees do the “dirty work”, then employers are required to protect those workers. They must be in compliance with OSHA worker protection standards.

                Conclusion:

As a team of environmental consultants keeping our environment, customers, and partners safe is one of our top priorities. When a construction worker comes home with dirty debris in their hair and clothes that can cross contaminate their homes and expose their spouse and children to asbestos. Asbestos exposure in children have the same effects as asbestos exposure in adults. Some of the dangers of asbestos include Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, and Lung Cancer. The effects of being exposed to asbestos do not set on right away, which is why it is so important for precautionary safety to begin in the workplace.

 

It is best to just skip the hassle and hire an unbiased third party contractor to send out a State-certified inspector to do the job correctly, efficiently, and legally. Instead of putting yourself, your company, and your employees at risk, contact BuildSafe to have one of our Certified Asbestos Inspectors come and do the job correctly. This will give yourself, as well as the client peace-of-mind.

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