Asbestos was a popular material for thermal insulation and suppressing fire until the late 1980s. Since then, the construction industry avoided using asbestos materials in buildings because of its history of causing cancer and other illnesses.
Today, owners of buildings with asbestos have to find a way to deal with asbestos-containing materials (ACM) while also ensuring the health and safety of building occupants.
Management of Asbestos in Buildings: Best Practices
In general, if the asbestos in your building is intact and sealed with no risk of exposure, then it’s not dangerous. It only becomes a problem when the asbestos fibres have a way to get airborne and reach building occupants. When that happens, people will breathe in the asbestos fibres into their lungs — then it’s a severe health hazard.
However, every commercial property and residential property (not including single family homes) must go through a Designated Substance Survey (DSS).
The DSS will determine if your building has any asbestos. It will also document if the asbestos is intact or sealed way, or if there’s exposure through damage to your drywall, ceilings, tiles, etc.
If you find asbestos, the Ontario Occupational Health & Safety Act requires you to implement an asbestos management program (AMP).
Asbestos Management Program (AMP)
The main goal of an AMP is to keep your building free of asbestos exposure through a series of legally mandated steps, including:
- Document Asbestos Materials
The owner must keep a record of all asbestos on the property, including the location and condition. You must also document if the asbestos is friable (you can crush it into dust by hand) or non-friable.
- Update the Report Every 12 Months
You must also update the asbestos report at least once every year or when something changes in your building, such as new asbestos exposure.
- Regular Inspections
To complete the report, you must have regular inspections of your asbestos containing areas. The inspector will need to look at the condition of your drywall, tiles, and other areas to confirm the presence of asbestos exposure.
- Written Warnings to Building Occupants
You must also provide written notification to all building occupants and contractors of the presence of asbestos.
- Training Programs
You must also train employees who are handling asbestos or working in an area with asbestos on how to properly handle the substance. You must also provide them with protective clothing and gear.
- Cleanup of Fallen ACM
You need a process in place for removing fallen asbestos material, such as broken ceiling tiles or drywall. If you come across such material, you need to remove it.
- Removal or Repair of Damaged ACM
In the case of asbestos exposure, you must either re-seal the damaged structures (e.g., drywall or broken tiles) or remove the asbestos entirely. In general, if you have a small or manageable amount of asbestos, you should remove it.
Use This Checklist to See if You Have Asbestos Exposure
You’re likelier to come across asbestos in older buildings. In such situations, your best bet is to maintain your building and keep the asbestos-containing areas in good condition.
But in certain types of buildings, such as industrial ones with heavy machinery and vehicles, maintenance isn’t easy. You could come across frequent damage, in which case, you will be better off removing the asbestos entirely.
Not Sure of What to do with Asbestos in Your Building?
- Are Your Tenants at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?
- Ontario’s Asbestos Removal & Disposal Regulations
- What are the Types of Asbestos Removal?
Asbestos Removal: Is it Necessary?
By removing or abating the asbestos, you’re eliminating the risk of asbestos exposure permanently. In other situations, it might be a good idea to abate to achieve or keep a high property value.
For example, a purchaser might ask you to reduce the price of your property so that they can remove the asbestos. Likewise, potential tenants may not lease from you if they find that you have asbestos warning signs.
You can look at hiring asbestos abatement contractors as an investment towards increasing the selling price of your building and attracting more business.
Restore your property value and attract new tenants by safely and quickly removing asbestos-containing materials in your building. Let’s start today!