If you or other consumers become alarmed upon the discovery of asbestos in a building, that’s perfectly normal and understandable. However, it’s important to not remove or handle this material yourself. Asbestos generally doesn’t pose any health threats as long as it’s isolated and intact. If you try to handle the asbestos without proper training, you may potentially release dangerous material fibers into the air.
Instead, it’s a better idea to hire an asbestos professional to take care of this job.
What does an asbestos professional do?
There are five types of professionals approved to handle asbestos: workers, contractors/supervisors, inspectors, management planners and project designers. When it comes to removal and abatement projects, you should consult inspectors or contractors.
Inspectors evaluate homes and buildings, collect material samples for laboratory analysis, and make recommendations about remedying problems with asbestos. Meanwhile, contractors perform the actual repair and removal work. If such modifications are needed, the inspectors make sure the contractors follow procedures, clean up the site properly and monitor the air to ensure that the work hasn’t released asbestos fibers into the air.
If you decide you need to hire an asbestos professional, be sure that the assessment work and actual repairs are performed by two different companies. That way, you’ll avoid a conflict of interest.
When hiring an asbestos inspector, make sure that the work includes a complete visual inspection as well as careful collection of material samples. If asbestos is present, the inspector should give you a complete written evaluation.
Before hiring a contractor, you need to obtain a contract that specifies what work needs to be done. At the end of the job, it’s important that you receive written documentation that all the correct procedures were followed.
What kind of training do asbestos professionals have?
Specifically, an asbestos inspector needs to be knowledgeable about:
- Identification of asbestos
- Potential health effects related to asbestos exposure
- The functions and qualifications of asbestos inspectors
- The legal responsibilities for asbestos inspectors and other parties
- Building systems, including HVAC systems
- Relationships with the public and building occupants
- Pre-inspection planning
- Assessing the condition of asbestos-containing products
- Bulk sampling of asbestos
- Respiratory protection for inspectors
- Regulatory reviews
- Field exercises
Contractors also have to learn about identifying asbestos, health effects and protective equipment. Additionally, they have to learn about:
- State-of-the-art work practices, including techniques to minimize the release of asbestos dust
- Personal hygiene
- Medical monitoring
- Air monitoring
- Miscellaneous health hazards, such as electrical wiring
Homeowners should note, though, that federal law doesn’t require that inspectors or contractors who work in detached single-family homes receive any training or accreditation. However, there are still state laws about training that need to be followed.
When hiring an asbestos professional, ask them to show proof of training and accreditation at both the federal and state levels. Additionally, you can run a background check on a potential hire by consulting your local air pollution board, your local agency that’s in charge of worker safety and the Better Business Bureau. Ask these agencies specifically about any safety violations and legal actions filed against a potential hire.