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Asbestos abatement.

BUILDING OWN-ers regard asbestos with the same enthusiasm they reserve for a sore tooth: They wish the problem would just painlessly go away. If it doesn't, then they would prefer to rid themselves of the problem in one clean sweep.

But how can a building owner or manager ensure that the work is done properly? After all, most building managers have neither the time nor the expertise to supervise an asbestos abateent project. That's where the independent project administrator comes in--to serve as the expert who will make sure the job is well done.

An effective project administrator must possess expertise in air sampling, respiratory protection, safety procedures, asbestos abatement regulations and construction, and related contracts. The project administrator should also have keen observation skills and be able to thoroughly document the project. This involves much more than visiting the site to take air samples. The project administrator works for the independent environmental consultant, who is hired by the building owner, and should be on-site for the duration of the abatement project. Any time the abatement contractor is active, the project administrator should oversee the contractor's work to enforce the contract documents; ensure compliance with regulations and codes; track scheduling for efficient cost control; assure that the abatement contractor has submitted all necessary paperwork and that the contractor's certifications are up-to-date; document the amount of work; and make certain that the contractor maintains the integrity of the work area so that other portions of the building are not contaminated.

The project administrator should keep the work progressing at a steady pace, making on-the-spot decisions that will prevent change orders and delays. Work practices that comply with all standards and codes should be encouraged, and steps should be taken to avoid accidents. Property damage caused by the contractor should be documented and either repaired or billed at the project's completion. If left unattended, these items can mean serious overruns in both time and money.


The project administrator's work should start weeks before the project begins by reviewing blueprints, contract documents and project specifications. He or she should be well-versed on the project by the starting date.

Pre-abatement air samples should be taken at the site to document airborne fiber levels, and should be followed by a series of phase contrast microscopy (PCM) samples read at an environmental laboratory. These are supported by a minimum number of transmission electron microscopy samples which are read only if problems occur during the project. Also at this time, the project administrator should survey the area to be abated and note items to watch as the project progresses, such as emergency lighting, proper isolation of heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems and other areas that might otherwise be overlooked.

During the preparation phase, the project administrator should collect PCM air samples and observe the installation of critical barriers over windows, doorways and other openings in the work area. Both layers of all and floor poly should be affixed according to the procedure outlined in the job specifications. The size of the personal decontamination unit should be large enough to handle the workers and sturdy enough to withstand frequent use. The project administrator should also verify that hot water is available for showers and the proper filters are provided for drain water.

The project administrator should be sure the contractor complies with health and safety standards, such as proper ventilation during adhesive spraying. Electrical safety is particularly important, because misting the work area is normally part of asbestos abatement. The project administrator must verify that all power to the area being abated is locked out; all temporary power should be run from outside the work area and connected to ground fault interrupted breakers at the power source.


The gross removal of asbestos containing material has the greatest potential for contamination and accidents. To avoid problems, the project administrator should editor the fiber count daily by taking air samples both inside and outside the work area. Wetting methods should be used; amended water, similar to liquid soap, should be sprayed on the asbestos to break its surface tension so it will retain water. This will keep much of the fibers from dispersing into the air. All workers should wear proper protective clothing and use respirators. Also, the project administrator must be prepared to stop work if containment is breached or the engineering controls set by the contractor fail.

During the waste bagout procedure, asbestos-containing materials are removed from the work area through a decontamination chamber, where they are washed, dried and then locked in a waste trailer until the trailer is full, ready to be hauled to an approved disposal site. During this chain of events, the project administrator should be near the bagout area, checking that proper procedures are being used and that bag or drum containers are thoroughly cleaned to prevent contamination outside the work area. In addition, all containers should be properly labeled, and be free of holes or punctures. Because it is a slow process, the tendency is to rush bagout and that's when problems frequently arise.

During the cleaning, encapsulation and final visual inspection phases, the project administrator should be inside the work area to check the cleaning of all surfaces and to take air samples. Even at this stage, there is potential for problems. The project administrator must be satisfied that the encapsulation of the substrate was thoroughly completed.

When all cleaning phases are finished, the project administrator should visually inspect all surfaces, including ceilings, walls and floors, as well as the contractor's equipment. The personnel decontamination unit, the equipment decontamination unit, all barriers, pipes, ducting and any other surface which may have residue should be inspected. A one horsepower leaf blower should be used for air sampling to check for hidden deposits of dust or debris. However, the visual inspection is not over until it is confirmed in writing and the certification is completed by the project administrator; in effect, several cleanings are often needed. After the project administrator determines that the work area is at least visually clean, airsamples are analyzed in accordance with the job specifications, including applicable local, state or federal sampling protocols.


When the area has been cleared, the pressure differential system, decontamination unit and any remaining critical barriers should be removed. Residual material should be wet wiped and contained using a high efficiency particulate air vacuum. The project administrator should prepare a "punch list" of repairs to be made by the contractor, including replacement placement of broken windows and fixtures, replastering of walls or painting. After the project has ended, many project administrators contribute to the abatement report. With the information needed to complete a detailed report, the project administrator is in the best position to gather schedule information, sample results and names of key personnel involved in the abatement. The project manager is the key person to success, whose value van be condensed to three words: "peace of mind."

Charles McCabe is project manager at Entek Environmental & Technical Services Inc. in Troy, NY.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Risk Management Society Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:McCabe, Charles
Publication:Risk Management
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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