DO I REALLY NEED A HAZARDOUS MATERIAL SURVEY?

If you are a property owner and planning to do a construction project (renovation or demolition) in the province of British Columbia then the simple answer is yes.

A Hazardous Materials Survey or “Hazmat Survey” is required by law prior to every construction project regardless of the age of the building.

The purpose of the Hazmat Survey is to identify hazardous materials on the property before the construction project begins so workers onsite are adequately informed of the hazards present and therefore can implement appropriate safety precautions such as wearing personal protection equipment (PPE).

As the homeowner, property owner, employer, property management group and/or general contractor you have the responsibility or “due diligence” to provide and maintain a safe working environment for all workers because you are the owner of and responsible for any hazards that may exist. Being unaware of hazards, especially without looking (not showing due diligence) or being negligent of the law is never a defensible excuse.

What is the law?

The Workers Compensation Act of British Columbia was created to protect all workers as governed by the BC Ministry of Labour. The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) also known as “WorkSafeBC” administers the Act on behalf of the Ministry of Labour. The Act gives WorkSafeBC the legal authority to create regulations such as the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation and enforce the regulatory requirements by WorkSafeBC officers. The requirement to have a Hazmat Survey is found in section 20.112 under Part 20 Construction, Excavation and Demolition of the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation.

Myth #1

A homeowner is not a worker and therefore the Act and/or Regulations do not apply to homeowners who perform their own renovations. Wrong but nice try.

I’ve heard this one 1,000 times and it never works. When you buy a property in BC, you own and are responsible for the good and the bad that comes with your property and this includes all known and unknown hazards like asbestos, lead paint, contaminated soils and underground storage tanks that may be present. It is “buyer beware” and even when undisclosed hazards are discovered it becomes your problem and no one else. This is why now more and more potential home buyers are getting Hazmat Surveys performed before buying a property because hazardous materials can drastically affect the costs of a renovation or demolition project.

Most often homeowners who perform their own renovations require sub-trades like plumbers or electricians to perform specific work activities which makes you not only the property owner (and owner of hazards present onsite) but also the General Contractor of the renovation project. Therefore you have the responsibility to provide and maintain a safe working environment for all workers who comes to your home (work site). For example if the sub-trade needs to cut holes into drywall walls or plaster ceilings to run wiring or piping it is your responsibility to test the drywall or plaster for asbestos and/or lead paint, not the sub-trades. Even if you are a homeowner who performs 100% of the renovation yourself, you still have hurdles that require a hazmat survey such as:

  • You will not be able to get a building permit (reno/demo) from the municipality;
  • A building inspector will not come to your site to perform required inspections;
  • You will not be able to dispose of your building waste, and;
  • You risk the chance of a “stop work order” or penalties (fines) by WorkSafeBC and/or the Municipality.

At least one or all of these inevitable problems that will occur without having a Hazmat Survey and can be quite costly to fix. Furthermore whatever cost savings you think you saved by not getting a Hazmat Survey prior to your construction project you have just lost and more.

Myth #2

A new home or building constructed after 1990 does not require a Hazmat Survey. Wrong.

All buildings require a Hazmat Survey before starting the construction project by law and the Hazmat Survey must be onsite and available upon request for regulatory officials such as WorkSafeBC officers and municipal inspectors. Trust me, asking for a copy of the Hazmat Survey is the first question they ask every time. The confusion related to the myth of the 1990 cut-off date for Hazmat Surveys comes from asbestos. A Hazmat Survey for a home or building that was constructed before December 31st 1990 must include testing for building materials that are suspected to contain asbestos. A Hazmat Survey for a home or building that was constructed after December 31st 1990 does not need to include testing for asbestos.

In 1984 asbestos was banned from products in Canada such as building materials. It was expected that stock piles of asbestos products ran out by the late-1980s and so the cut-off was set at December 31st 1990. Unused asbestos-containing products are still found in places like old storage rooms (i.e. box of unused floor tiles). Although asbestos testing receives the most attention and scrutiny in Hazmat Surveys; it is only one of the the many hazard identification criteria required in Hazmat Surveys. Generally for homes, Hazmat Surveys include the following reporting criteria:

  • asbestos
  • lead
  • silica
  • mould
  • heavy metals
  • radioactive materials
  • PCB’s
  • ozone depleting substance
  • biological hazards
  • flammables or explosives

A Hazmat Survey generally includes sampling for asbestos and lead paint. Other criteria are visually assessed and those observations are noted in the report along with sample results. Most often older homes have a higher potential of containing hazards than a home built yesterday and more emphasis is put on inspecting older homes but the rules and penalties are just the same for any property.

Hazmat Surveys and Homes in Nanaimo, BC

The majority of single family detached homes in the greater Nanaimo were built between the 1950s to 1990s and range in price from $250,000 to $1,0000,000 with an average of $350,000 according to 2015 statistics by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. The majority of new home buyers have full intention of renovating the property right away or immediately demolishing the house because in Nanaimo you pay the big bucks for the land not the 50 year old house. New home buyers in Nanaimo often want to upgrade their kitchen & bathrooms, install basement rental suites to supplement income and make use of every square inch to optimize the small size of their new old home worth 3/4 of a million dollars.

Homes in Nanaimo are really expensive and their purchase should not be taken lightly so arm yourself with all the information possible and in addition to a “home inspection” get a Hazmat Survey to identify things like asbestos because if your choice comes down to two homes and one home has asbestos in the walls, ceilings, flooring and/or attic insulation you might want to buy the other one. 

Before buying a home or starting that renovation project, be informed, get educated, get the testing done and get a Hazmat Survey.

Mention this blog post “Do I really need a Hazmat Survey” and get 10% off on your next survey including a free estimate.

Contact: Paul 250 713 1087

               paul@westcoasthazmat.ca

Hazmat Surveys