Here’s a scenario we see happen far too often:
A frantic client calls FACS. The work plan for a restoration project didn’t mention hazardous materials, but the crew found asbestos contamination.
Work cannot continue without clearance by a certified hazardous materials consultant, and for the client … each hour of delay means money lost.
When hazards are unexpectedly found post-contract, the work schedule gets thrown off, expenses mount, and failure to properly address the danger may even result in legal action.
The party who wins most from the situation is the contractor, who can justifiably charge a premium rate for emergency response services.
Safety comes first — but at a high cost when the hazardous material survey is omitted from pre-construction planning and specifications.
Owners and managers sometimes blame the compliance agencies for interrupting the work “unnecessarily,” but environmental health and safety regulations are in place for one essential reason: the release or disturbance of hazardous materials poses a danger to worker safety, public health, and the environment.
The fact that hazardous materials are present on a work site isn’t the real issue. Failing to identify them and mitigate the danger they pose before construction begins — that’s the problem.
When to Inspect for Hazardous Materials
The best time to determine the presence of hazardous materials is before the contract is written. Specifications that accurately reflect current conditions benefit and protect all stakeholders.
At FACS, we would much rather work with clients to survey the proposed work for potential hazards than to get a desperate cry for help after the project is underway and an unforeseen release has already occurred.
Here Are Five Ways Pre-Project Surveys Can Help You:
Protecting yourself and others against an inadvertent release of hazardous materials isn’t as difficult or expensive as you might think … when it’s built into your plan.
Consider these five desirable outcomes from pre-project hazardous materials surveys:
- You improve the quality of your bids and attract more capable contractors. Change orders can lead to unexpected delays and significant increases in costs. An unplanned hazardous materials event can throw the project completely off track and turn a straightforward process into a major headache.The more accurate your bids are, the more confident bidders can be in their proposals. That increases the likelihood of getting the work completed on schedule and within budget.You wouldn’t believe how many times our staff observes highly-paid engineers stand by watching while certified workers suit up to remove unexpected hazards that weren’t discovered because there was no pre-project inspection or survey.
- You give contractors the information they need to get the job done right the first time. They want to protect their employees and keep costs down, but they’re typically not regulatory experts. Get the right people involved to assist you with compliance.You’re the responsible party. It’s up to you to make sure contractors have everything they need to deliver a quality project on schedule. Set them up for success, not for failure. You want them to know you’re on their side, and you’re not trying to save money by cutting corners that could put them and their crew in a dangerous predicament.
- You get the job done quicker when accurate specifications drive a seamless and dependable timetable for construction.We’ve seen owners and project managers attempt to circumvent planning by relying on cut-and-paste specifications used on previous projects. That’s a recipe for disaster.While you can certainly transfer portions of the requirements for an earlier job to the current plan, much of the work is unique to the situation. It’s never a good idea to assume similar worksites will present the same risk for hazardous materials.
- You stay current with the ever-changing body of workplace and environmental regulations. Knowing what is expected, when it is expected, and how to provide proof of compliance is the primary way to lower the risks.Certified inspectors are an excellent source of information. To maintain certification, they must stay up-to-date with the demands of the law. An awareness of current environmental health and safety regulations helps you avoid unwelcome surprises.Seasoned inspectors draw from years of experience to ensure the process is completed quickly and accurately. Once a thorough survey is conducted and the mitigation is complete, everyone can focus on the work at hand.
- You provide a layer of protection against legal claims resulting from the work. Environmental health and safety violations can be devastating to people, the environment, and your company’s bottom line. Never let your desire to get the job done at the lowest cost get in the way of safety. The risk is too great.
We know of property owners and managers who have faced bankruptcy and imprisonment because they chose to bypass the pre-construction survey.
Here’s an example:
A California company demolished and began renovation on a former Air Force building, with the aim of converting it to commercial use. The owner failed to warn workers of asbestos contamination and allowed them to dispose of pipe insulation and other materials without utilizing the proper equipment or protective measures.
The administrative manager of the company was imprisoned for 27 months (2015) and ordered to pay over $1.8 million in restitution. The construction manager was sentenced to 24 months in prison. The company was also ordered to pay the ongoing costs of medical monitoring for the 65 workers (including students) affected by the incident.
Tragic decisions like this lead to unintended results that can affect people and the environment forever.
People, Price,Time, and the Planet — All Are Important
We get it when business owners and managers tell us they feel they’re being regulated too heavily. Significant outlays of time and money are often required to keep projects compliant with environmental health and safety laws.
Pre-project inspections for hazardous materials aren’t just a regulatory issue: they are everyone’s concern. Their purpose is to protect the health of us all.
When you compare the cost of conducting a pre-construction hazardous materials survey to the potential expense of proceeding without due caution and adherence to regulations … you’ll understand the wisdom of calling FACS before you prepare the bid documents.
Here’s that number: (888) 711-9998.