As a restoration contractor responding to water and fire damage, it is important to be aware that asbestos can be present in the materials that are being disturbed. Asbestos fibers are microscopic, and no amount of exposure is safe, as it still poses a threat when inhaled or ingested. In most cases, you cannot tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled.
As a rule of thumb, buildings built before 1981 may contain asbestos, e.g. plaster, pipe insulation, boiler insulation, or floor tile.
The Restoration Industry Association, (RIA) has an Environmental Council that provides educational materials and resources for the restoration industry. The information is intended to make restoration contractors consider the potential risks, liabilities, and responsibilities that they have when performing emergency response demolition and repairs.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the asbestos in schools with the AHERA laws and the NESHA laws under the Clean Air Act. The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) regulates employer responsibilities for training and protecting employees. Under OSHA, employers are responsible for training workers for different work classifications who might accidentally disturb or intentionally remove asbestos in the general industry and the construction industry.
Restoration contractors must comply with the federal and local laws to avoid or prevent a lawsuit, fine, or even jail time. The fundamental mechanism is education: know what is required before starting a job. Be proactive- have materials tested by a certified Asbestos Inspector before demolition. When it comes to disturbance, removal, employee exposure, transportation, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, be sure to follow the federal and local regulations and guidelines and hire a trained and accredited asbestos professional to take samples for analysis.
There are two versions of the RIA documents- a short, five-page document and a long, 12-page version. These, along with the Asbestos Fact Sheet are available for free download at the RIA Store. You can find these documents at www.restorationindustry.org.