What is the facility manager’s role in managing asbestos during tenant fit-outs?
First, it’s important to explain that there are two classes of asbestos products that were widely used in the past, before their inhalation was shown to cause a variety of diseases. The first class, referred to as “friable,” describes materials that are easily crumbled or loose in composition. The second class, termed “non-friable,” includes more durable materials held together by a binder such as cement, vinyl or asphalt. Non-friable materials, such as suspended ceilings concealing fireproofing and, to a lesser degree, vinyl asbestos floor tile, are common in office buildings.
Second, when the decision is made to renovate the interiors of a property built prior to 1980, the first responsibility of a facility manager is to have an in-house specialist or consulting company develop and execute an asbestos management plan. Its purpose is to identify asbestos-containing materials. It takes place either through a building-wide or floor-by-floor inventory, before suspect materials are exposed by interior construction.
The asbestos management plan should include policies and procedures for the abatement. The report finding may affect the design limitations and subsequent interior construction procedures.
The legal requirements for testing, handling, working with, removing and disposing of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are described in Designated Substance — Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations (Ontario Regulation 278/05). Under Ontario law, asbestos work is classified as Type 1, 2 or 3; tenant fit-outs usually rank as Type 1 or 2. A Type 1 operation is defined as one that does not generate appreciable levels of airborne asbestos and generally presents little hazard to workers or bystanders. Type 2 operations are small-scale activities which may generate enough airborne asbestos to require protective equipment, but are short lived.
If construction is to take place in a Type 2 environment, enclosures (fully enclosed, air-tight tenting) are required to allow mechanical and electrical trades access above ceiling to perform inspection and specified alterations. The general contractor must ensure and maintain negative pressure of Type 2 enclosures utilizing DOP-tested HEPA-filtered negative air units, discharging exhaust into exhaust ducts through mechanical manifolds typically provided by the mechanical contractor. If the Type 2 operation involves the removal of a false ceiling, a detailed method of procedure (MOP) must be developed by the general contractor in accordance with the requirements of Ontario Regulation 278/05.
Before work commences, the general contractor must meet with their site representative and trade foreman to review the methodology and site-specific on-goings to ensure all parties are aware of their responsibilities.
Typically this meeting includes the review of:
- Documentation, checklists and schedules
- Regulations outlined in the contract’s supplementary conditions
- Ontario Regulation 278/05
- The designated substance reports (DSR), developed by the hazardous building materials consultant
By ensuring all parties follow safety procedures and adhere to regulations, a facility manager can achieve the smooth delivery of interior renovation projects.
Daniel De Monte is the president of Flat Iron Building Group Inc., a Toronto-based boutique construction firm that has been specializing in general contracting, construction management and design-build services for more than a decade.