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Why is a Hazmat Survey required?

A Hazmat Survey is required by WorkSafeBC regulations in order to keep all workers safe. Before employing any workers to do renovation work, a hazmat survey must be completed. A Hazmat Survey is also required by many municipalities before they will issue building permits for renovation projects or demolition permits. Hazmat surveys ensure that no workers or building occupants are exposed to hazardous materials.

What is a Hazmat Survey?

A hazardous materials survey (hazmat survey) is a survey that determines the presence of hazardous materials in a building. This type of survey is required for all buildings that were built before 1990 that are expected to be renovated or demolished and can also be beneficial when buying or selling a home.

The survey must occur before the renovation or demolition plans begin. The survey is meant to identify ALL materials that could be harmful if they are not removed prior to the reno/demo. The hazardous materials commonly included in a survey are asbestos, lead, mercury, PCB’s, mold, silica, arsenic, ozone depleting substances, rodent/bird droppings, radioactive materials, and any other materials that are flammable or toxic. Samples of materials suspect to contain asbestos and lead are taken and analyzed by a lab to determine if asbestos or lead is present.

The Process

If you have decided that you want to do a renovation or demolition project, the following process should occur:

Ensure that you are aware of the scope of your project to guarantee that all areas expected to be impacted can be surveyed appropriately.

Find a qualified professional to complete the survey. This qualified professional should be an AHERA Certified Building Inspector or a Certified Hygienist. Other important questions to ask are:

Will the report provided be able to satisfy WorkSafeBC and Municipal Requirements?

Do you have Errors & Omissions Insurance? This is important in case any mistakes are made in the report.

What method is used for sample analysis? Samples should be analyzed using the EPA 600/R-93/116 (July 1993) method. Note that due to new WorksafeBC regulations in Feb 2015, zonolite vermiculite insulation  is assumed to be asbestos containing without being analyzed by a lab.

How is the cost of the survey determined? The buildup of costs for the hazmat survey should be easy to understand. Most companies charge a minimum fee that covers the site visit and the report time and then each sample that needs to be analyzed is an additional fee. This means the final cost is determined by the number of samples taken.

Schedule an appointment for the survey to be conducted. Depending on the size of the building and the number of samples required, the survey could take anywhere between 30 minutes to more than 2 hours. During the survey, the surveyor will require access to all areas expected to be impacted by the reno/demo. Ensure that you schedule the appointment for a time that full access is possible.

Once onsite, explain the scope of work to the surveyor. The surveyor should be knowledgeable on the number of samples required for each type of material that is expected to be impacted by the reno/demo.

The surveyor should be prepared with proper PPE (personal protective equipment). They should be equipped with an impermeable suit, respirator, hand tools, and a spray bottle. Samples should never be taken using power tools. Before any sample is taken, the area should be wet down to prevent fiber release in the case that asbestos is present. When the samples are being taken, stand a minimum of 10 feet away from the surveyor.

Once the survey is complete, the surveyor will submit all samples for analysis. The results of the survey and analysis will be compiled into a report. Normally this process takes 3-4 business days. Ensure that the report includes the bulk sample results that came directly from the lab.

If hazardous materials are found, they will be included in the report along with a risk assessment stating how the materials should be handled according to the reno/demo plans. Some surveyors are able to provide a quote for the removal of the hazardous materials along with the hazmat report. Get a few quotes to ensure you are getting the best for your money.

All hazardous materials should be handled as described in the report to ensure the safety of all workers and building occupants.

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