If you are a contractor working in the state of Georgia, it is important to understand the laws and regulations surrounding asbestos. Most contractors learn the hard way when they are hit with stiff fines for non-compliance. A little education up front will go a long way in making sure you properly check for and remove asbestos from your demolition and renovation projects.
This article is intended to address the most common questions surrounding asbestos, and let you know exactly what it is you need to do before you start your next project.
Asbestos containing materials in demolition and renovation projects receive oversite from the following:
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Asbestos Program
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Solid Waste Management Program
- U.S. EPA National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)
- U.S. EPA Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)
- OSHA Specific Standards for General Industry
- Local Codes & Regulations
What do I need to do as a contractor concerning asbestos?
The bottom line: If you are conducting a demolition or renovation project, you must obtain an asbestos survey and notify the Georgia EPD.
As a contractor, the most immediate requirement you will encounter is notification and fees due to the Georgia EPD, Lead-Based Paint and Asbestos Program. The owner or operator of any demolition and/or renovation activity is required to submit a notice of their project to the EPD, regardless of the presence or absence of asbestos.
The first step to completing your notification is to obtain an asbestos survey. A licensed inspector will evaluate your site under AHERA guidelines to determine if there is any friable or non-friable asbestos that will be disturbed during your project.
- If no asbestos is discovered, you may submit notification directly to the EPD using the proper form found here. No fees are required.
- If asbestos is discovered, all regulated asbestos-containing material must be abated from the building before demolition and/or renovation. In this case, your abatement contractor will take care of the notification and fees required.
What if my Asbestos Survey found non-friable or other non-regulated asbestos containing material?
The bottom line: Even if your project contains materials that are not regulated by the Georgia EPD Asbestos Program, you must still comply with OSHA and Georgia Solid Waste Disposal laws and regulations.
You may notice this word “Friable” that we keep throwing around. The word friable identifies any material that contains more than 1% asbestos and can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to power by hand.
- Any material that is friable, has become friable, or will become friable during demolition is a Regulated Asbestos Containing Material (RACM).
- Any material that is Category I or II non-friable, and will remain non-friable during demolition is not a RACM.
These categories and definitions are spelled out by the Georgia EPD, and they have classified each material on their notification forms.
It is important to understand that asbestos containing materials that meet the non-friable definition above are ONLY excluded from Georgia EPD Asbestos Program regulations. OSHA and Solid Waste Disposal rules still apply and must be complied with.
So, how do I dispose of asbestos containing material properly?
The bottom line: Asbestos waste must be double bagged, labeled, and taken to a permitted landfill.
If you have non-friable asbestos containing material, you must follow GA Solid Waste regulations to dispose of it.
You may encounter items such as transite siding panels that have fallen to the ground, asbestos floor tiles that have come loose, or asbestos shingles no longer attached to a roof. If these items are intact and do not need to be removed from the structure with demolition tools, they are most likely non-friable materials. In this case, you are exempt from GA EPD asbestos abatement requirements and can take care of the disposal yourself.
While following OSHA regulations for worker protection:
- Double bag and seal the materials.
- Lable each bag with the following statement: “Caution – Contains Asbestos Fibers – Avoid Opening or Breaking Container – Breathing Asbestos is Hazardous to Your Health.”
- Transport to a permitted landfill and submit a completed waste manifest identifying the type and quantity of asbestos containing material.
- Note that asbestos materials may not be transported by any garbage truck or vehicle that uses compaction to reduce waste volume.
How do I keep workers safe when working with asbestos?
The bottom line: Hire an asbestos contractor or follow OSHA guidelines.
If you have decided that the asbestos containing material you are dealing with is not regulated by the GA EPD Asbestos Program, and you are going to handle proper disposal on your own… you are still subject to OSHA regulations for worker safety.
OSHA does not make the same distinctions between friable and non-friable materials and requires proper worker protection for most any asbestos containing material. As you can imagine, the OSHA guidelines are complex and have many variables based on different applications. Before you direct your employees to work with or handle asbestos containing materials, you should become familiar with the OSAH guidelines found here.
What about commercial or industrial projects
Commercial and industrial projects open up a whole different level of regulations and concerns. The items discussed above pertain to residential projects only. In addition to what is discussed here, commercial projects are regulated and enforced by the US EPA. If you are on a commercial project, your best bet is to go directly to an asbestos contractor for guidance.
Summing it all up
Asbestos regulations can become confusing very fast. Not only are the fines steep, the health risk for exposure is very real. Taking the time to do you homework will go a long way in handling asbestos properly. Most often, your best bet is to find a trusted asbestos contractor to partner with. The right firm will be happy to provide the guidance you need to make the right decision on your next project.