responsibly. A building owner is responsible for ensuring safety to all building occupants and guests that visit a property. If there is any kind of risk that can be prevented, the owner needs to address the issue promptly. This includes everything from snow removal, water leaks, mold, or any potentially hazardous materials such as asbestos. Therefore, if an occupant has a complaint, the least the owner or manager should do is investigate the validity of the complaint. The building owner needs to assess the complaint, make every attempt to remedy the condition, as well as inform the occupant as to how the complaint was handled.
A complaint of this type can go in one of two directions, and for that reason the first step is crucial. Is the person complaining about known asbestos that is damaged or about suspect material they fear is asbestos? If we are addressing known asbestos, there are three EPA approved ways to remedy the situation. The only way the material can be positively known as asbestos is if an asbestos survey was previously performed on the property. If a survey was done there should be an Operation and Management Program in place. This program will outline where asbestos is located as well as the condition it was in at that point. The O&M Program also states that asbestos will be continually monitored to ensure there has been no new damage. If the presence of asbestos is confirmed then the next step is for the building owner to decide which of the three EPA approved remedies to perform.
Once asbestos is damaged, it can be “enclosed”, “encapsulated”, or removed. All three of these options need to be performed by a licensed professional. After the situation has been handled properly, the O&M Program should be updated for future reference. If the complaint involves suspected asbestos material, then the building owner must start from scratch. This means having the material tested. There is no definitive way of identifying asbestos without an actual analysis. An accredited laboratory can determine if the material is in fact asbestos-containing. A material is categorized as asbestos-containing (ACM) if it contains more than 1% asbestos. If the lab results state that the material is not asbestos, no further action needs to be taken. Generally, if asbestos-containing material is discovered in a building it is fairly certain that other materials in that building will also contain asbestos. The only way to make certain that you are in control of the situation is to have an asbestos survey conducted in the building. A survey will provide the owner with the information required to manage the asbestos materials in the future and head off complaints before they develop.