Asbestos Surveys... Is Your Apartment Building Compliant?

Article by Horace Lee

Is your Asbestos Survey compliant? Asbestos in apartment buildings is now regulated by Ontario Regulation 278/05. The new Asbestos Regulation has resulted in many existing Asbestos Surveys and Asbestos Management Programs for apartment buildings to be non compliant. The following article describes the types of asbestos and where they may be found in apartment buildings, some of the major changes regarding Asbestos Surveys and Asbestos Management Programs, who is required to have an Asbestos Survey, and what is involved in an Asbestos Survey. 

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is mined for the production of building materials and is known for its strength and heat resistant properties. Asbestos has been most prevalent in North America up to the 1980s. As such, it is common to find asbestos in apartment buildings built prior to the 1980s. The use of asbestos for many building materials had ceased in North America amid awareness that exposure to asbestos was linked to deadly respiratory conditions: lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

There are two major categories of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM): friable and non-friable. Friable materials are those that when dry can be crumbled, pulverized, or powdered by hand pressure. Friable ACM are of high risk as the Asbestos fibres can be easily released into the air and will be exposed to the occupants. In apartment buildings, friable ACM may be found in sprayed fire proofing, mechanical pipe and fitting insulation, insulation materials, and ceiling tiles.

Non-friable ACM are those where the asbestos fibres are tightly bound into the building material. As such, non-friable ACM tend to be of lower risk as they are not as easily airborne. In apartment buildings, non-friable ACM can be found in floor tiles, drywall, drywall joint compound, cement boards, siding material, electric wire insulation, gaskets and surfacing materials.

An Asbestos Survey is conducted to identify the location, the condition, and the type and extent of asbestos located in an apartment building. It is part of the Asbestos Management Program as required by O. Reg. 278/05 to manage, control and minimize exposure of Asbestos to apartment building occupants and workers. Some of the major changes in the new regulation regarding Asbestos Surveys and Asbestos Management Programs include standardizing requirements for asbestos sampling and the inclusion of both friable ACM and non-friable ACM in the Asbestos Management Program and Asbestos Survey. Under the old regulations, there were no set requirements regarding the number of samples and the type of analysis used for the survey and the old regulation required only friable ACM to be included in the Asbestos Survey and Asbestos Management Program.

Management Programs are now required to be updated a minimum of every 12 months. As such, many existing Asbestos Surveys and Asbestos Management Programs may be non compliant.

An Asbestos Survey and Asbestos Management Program are required for a multi-unit residential apartment building by the Regulation when the apartment building has asbestos or is suspected of having asbestos. The apartment building undergoes repair work, maintenance, alterations, demolition, or any work where ACM is likely to be handled, dealt with, disturbed or removed.

An Asbestos Survey is conducted through a visual inspection of all areas of the apartment building: the facilities, the service rooms and the apartments. The goal is to identify building materials that may be asbestos containing. Samples of suspected ACM will be obtained in a way to minimize exposure to the consultant and occupants. The type of laboratory analysis and the number of ACM samples obtained are standardized by O. Reg. 278/05 and will depend on the amount of suspected ACM present, the type of suspected ACM building material, and the number of variations of suspected ACM building materials. The Asbestos Survey will be a report consisting of the laboratory results, the locations, the types, the conditions and the extents of any ACM. Based on the Asbestos Survey an Asbestos Management Program will be devised to help apartment building owners, supervisors and employees to control and monitor asbestos in a safe and timely manner.

Asbestos is a regulated material that still exists in many apartment buildings and has been linked to many deadly respiratory conditions. Any building that has or is suspected to have Asbestos or is undergoing demolition, construction, and renovations will require Asbestos Surveys and Asbestos Management Programs. As of November 1, 2007, O. Reg. 278/05 has come into full effect to regulate and control asbestos in apartment buildings that contain or are suspected to contain both friable and non-friable asbestos. The new Asbestos Regulation has a number of significant changes that have resulted in many existing Asbestos Surveys and Asbestos Management Programs to be non compliant.

Is your Asbestos Survey in compliance?

For More Information:

Horace Lee, M.A.Sc.
JFM Environmental Limited
Tel: 905-712-1500

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