IDENTIFYING ROOT CAUSE OF STRUCTURAL HEALTH & SAFETY RISKS TO GUIDE EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE REMEDIATION
Every building loss or remediation is subject to Environmental Health and Safety considerations. The Haag Canada Environmental Health and Safety group protects its contracting and insurance clients from liability by offering operational guidance on adhering to applicable federal and provincial regulations, guidelines and industry standards surrounding hazardous materials and designated substances. This guidance is a crucial preventative measure that safeguards owners, occupants, workers, and the general public.
We have expertise across a wide array of sectors including: Institutional, Manufacturing, Industrial, Commercial and Residential. Claims often require demolition, rebuilding, and modifications of buildings. Insurance companies and claims professionals typically take on the task of initiating and managing the related contractor restoration and reconstruction activities. In so doing, they may assume the equivalent role of the “owner” or “constructor”. Within that role, there are a number of regulatory compliance requirements and responsibilities of which insurance and claims professionals must be aware. Failure to undertake the necessary assessment and surveys of hazardous materials (such as asbestos), can result in increased risk, liability and penalties. It is important to understand that there is no exclusion date with respect to regulations that apply to hazardous materials in building materials. Even newer construction buildings are subject to the requirements.
While the Environmental Health and Safety group supports all of Haag Canada’s five core services, the following outlines specific capabilities and specialized services relating to hazardous materials and designated substances:
Identification of Environmental Hazards
Regulations require that a list of all “designated substances” at a project site be provided to all bidders at the tendering stage. The “Constructor” shall ensure that each prospective contractor and subcontractor for the project has received a copy of the list before entering into a contract. If the testing and documentation is not in order, a project is at increased risk for additional costs due to delays, unplanned work and the liability associated with exposure. Typical investigations include:
- Site inspections and testing
- Determination of loss-specific contamination and impacted area
- Sampling and laboratory analyses
- Documentation and reporting
Root Cause of Environmental Hazards Determination
Our experts establish the root cause of a potential concern before determining the need for remediation in built environments. The presence of hazardous materials and designated substances may not require remediation or management, so it’s important to seek expert counsel to avoid the prospect of incurring costs. Often, the presence of mould, for example, is related to water infiltration, lack of ventilation and/or HVAC distribution issues. Until the root cause is determined, and any identified issues rectified, mould growth will be a recurring concern even after remedial actions are undertaken.
Scope of Remediation
Once the root cause of a potential concern is identified, the scope of work is developed to ensure an optimal remediation process. The implementation of formalized procedures ensures compliance with applicable regulatory requirements. It also confirms that all reasonable steps are taken to minimize potential exposures to contaminants for building occupants, contractors and others who are at risk.
Typical remedial services include:
- Evaluation of contamination and level of risk
- Development of scopes of work for remediation
Given the intricacies of traditional and contemporary structures that show contamination, remedial activities can often be multidisciplinary and involve an array of stakeholders. During remediation, Haag experts provide the necessary inspections and oversight. Typical project management elements include:
- Contract and tendering administration
- Site inspections and air monitoring during remedial operations
- Oversight of remedial activities
- Post-remedial air sampling (mould, asbestos, VOCs)
- Regulatory documentation and reporting
As evolving regulations and standards vary by region, it is imperative that those managing hazardous substances and materials be up-to-date with the latest education requirements and protocols. Haag Canada experts can lead informational seminars to educate team members on the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) regulatory requirements, protocols and procedures associated with building contamination. Typical courses include:
- Asbestos management
- Designated substances and hazardous materials
- Respiratory protection and fit testing
Section 30 of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) deals with the presence of designated substances on construction projects. Compliance with the OHSA and its regulations requires action to be taken where there is a designated substance hazard on a construction project. Of the 11 substances “designated” in Ontario to date, asbestos, lead, silica and mercury are the most likely to be present in a building that could represent a potential exposure concern during any construction activity.
Haag Canada experts are familiar with managing all designated substances, which typically includes:
- Coke oven emissions
- Ethylene oxide
- Vinyl Chloride
The OHSA sets out, in very general terms, the duties of employers and others to protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job. Various regulatory requirements and health guidance documents related to handling/disposal also apply to controlling exposure to mould, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and ozone-depleting substances (ODS). Regulations and guidelines are often open to interpretation and can result is potential risk of exposure, however the implementation of industry standards and best practices are essential for protecting building occupants and contractors. Haag experts can manage the complete list of hazardous materials that may be found during an investigation. Substances include:
- Ozone depleting substances (ODS) and other halocarbons
- Radioactive sources
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
- Urea Foam Formaldehyde Insulation (UFFI)
- Man-Made Mineral Fibres (MMMF)
- Bird and bat dropping
- Mouse droppings
- Racoon feces
The investigations Haag undertakes typically factor in the assessment of asbestos, lead, mercury, silica, mould, PCBs and ODS’ that may be affected by the proposed work.