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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Abatement Lessons Learned From Deutsche Bank Tragedy

On August 18, 2007, a fire at the former Deutsche Bank Headquarters located in Manhattan, New York claimed the lives of two New York City firefighters. After the fire, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected the site and issued citations to Bovis Lend Lease, John Galt Corp., and Paradise Energy Electrical Contractors. These contractors were responsible or involved with the demolition and asbestos abatement work on the buildings. Bovis Lend Lease was being fined $193,000, John Galt Corp. was being fined $271,500, and Paradise Energy Electrical was being fined $6,250. OSHA found the following hazards at the worksite:
  • Failing to inspect and maintain firefighting equipment to ensure that the standpipe system was operational and that sufficient water supply and presuure were available for firefighting
  • Obstructed emergency exit access (including sealed emergency stairwells, emergency stairwells blocked by construction, and unlighted stairwells)
  • Inadequate emergency escape procedures
  • Unmarked exits
  • Lack of fire extinguishers, emergency alarm procedures, and fire cutoffs
  • Failing to develop and follow a fire protection program
  • Smoking permitted in work areas
  • Temporary structures inside the building made of combustible materials
  • Scaffolds erected too close to power lines
  • Unprotected sides and edges of work areas, unprotected floor openings, missing or broken guardrails, and missing stair rails
  • Exposed live electrical parts, electrical panel boards in wet locations, and other electrical hazards.

Several of these items are reminders for abatement contractors and consultants, building owners, facility managers, general contractors, and project management firms. There are several OSHA regulations that apply to asbestos abatement, other than 1926.1101, and they require:

  • That temporary structures, such as the decontamination facility, must be constructed of non-combustible materials such as fire retardant wood.
  • Exists must be marked and alternate exits established. For example, using fluorscent paint to mark exits and designate alternate pathways.
  • Construct blocked fire exits so workers could still use them. For example installing knives near the exists so workers can cut the poly, and construct kick-out panels to access the fire exits.
  • Install a fire extinguisher (rated at least 2A) per 3000 square feet of protected building area. Install sufficient fire extinguishers so that the distance traveled shall not exceed 100 feet. At least one fire extinguisher shall be located adjacent to the stairway.
  • Develop and follow a fire protection program that includes: the preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies; evacuation policy and procedures; emergency escape procedures and route assignments, such as floor plans, workplace maps, and safe or refuge areas; names, titles, departments, and telephone number of individuals both within and outside your company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties or responsibilities under the emergency plan; procedures for employees who remain to perform or shut down critical operations, operate fire extinguishers, or perform other essential services that cannot be shutdown for every emergency alarm before evacuating; and rescue and medical duties for any workers designated to perform them.

New York State Department of Labor mentioned at the PACNY conference that there might be some changes in the future based on the information gathered from this tragedy. From OSHA's press release we can learn some of these lessons now and apply them to our current projects. Should you need any assistance with developing these programs or plans, you can contact us, and we can assist you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

PCBs In Caulk Making Headlines

Prompted by the Daily News, NYS Education Department tested several city schools for Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in caulk and found six of the nine schools tested positive. However, only one of the schools tested positive for PCBs in the air. As we learned at the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York (PACNY) meeting a few months ago, the NYS Education Department was already requiring new projects impacting window caulk in buildings built between 1950 and 1977 to evaluate the caulk and submit a remediation plan for addressing the caulk (

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR), PCBs may reasonably be expected, and probably can cause cancer of the liver or biliary tract. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies PCBs as a Group B2 Probable Human Carcinogen and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies PCBs as a Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans. Some animal studies showed that animals that ate small amounts of PCBs in food over several weeks or months developed health effects such as: anemia; acne-like skin conditions; and liver, stomach, and thyroid gland injuries. Human studies, in particular women who were exposed to relatively high levels of PCBs in the workplace or ate large amounts of fish contaminated with PCBs, showed these women had babies that weighed slightly less than babies from women who did not have these exposures. The studies also showed babies born to women who ate PCB-contaminated fish had abnormal responses in tests of infant behavior. According to ATSDR, some of these behaviors, such as problems with motor skills and a decrease in short-term memory, lasted for several years. Other studies suggest that the immune system was affected in children born to and nursed by mothers exposed to increased levels of PCBs. There are no reports of structural birth defects caused by exposure to PCBs or of health effects of PCBs in older children. If you wanted to know if you were exposed to PCBs there are blood tests that can be done. However, everyone has some level of PCBs in their body due to environmental exposure.

There are several websites to get information on this issue which is starting to be recognized by schools, government, and the public. EPA's website has a section on PCBs in caulk: Dr. Daniel Lefkowitz was one of the presenters at the PACNY conference and his website would like to see mandatory testing of caulk in schools is: Dr. Daniel Lefkowitz found PCB in the caulk at the school his children went to.

EPA's Region 2 is recommending that samples taken of caulk or soil that will be analyzed for PCBs should use a Soxhlet extraction method (an example of this would be EPA method 3540C) using toluene as a solvent. The extraction should then be purified with concentrated sulfuric acid (similar to EPA method 3665A) and purified with florosil (similar to EPA method 3620B). The purified extraction would then be analyzed by gas chromatography with an electron capture detector (similar to EPA method 8082). The results are to be reported in total PCBs in parts per million (ppm). If the results exceed 50 ppm then those materials are regulated.

If you determine you have PCBs in the caulk or soil you should contact EPA's Region 2 coordinator Mr. Jim Hattler (732-906-6817). Mr. Hattler is willing to assist facility owners in developing a plan on the handling of any materials determined to contain PCBs. He has emphasized that these materials may not need to be removed, but would like to ensure that any clean-ups address all materials containing PCBs (caulk, soil, or its migration into other building materials). EPA is currently in an assistance mode on this matter and is currently developing a guidance document to assist facility owners. EPA's website includes a specific section on PCBs (

Remember when taking samples of PCBs you have to protect yourself from both inhalation and dermal exposures. The OSHA Permisible Exposure Limit (PEL) for PCBs is based on chlorodiphenyl 42% or 52 % chlorine (Table Z-1 The PEL for chlorodiphenyl (42% chlorine) is 1 milligram per cubic meter or chlorodiphenyl (54% chlorine) is 0.5 milligram per cubic meter. Analysis methods for personal air samples are NIOSH 5503 or OSHA PV2088. OSHA recommends that you wear rubber gloves that will not absorb PCBs and consider using goggles or a face shield (if using a full mask air purifying respirator (APR) the goggles or face shield are not needed) and a rubber apron. Avoid personal contamination by not touching your face while wearing gloves. If you get PCBs in your eyes, irrigate your eyes immediately. If you get PCBs on your skin, wash the skin wth soap and water immediately. The recommended respiratory protection would be a full mask APR utilizing a duo cartridge with protection for organic vapors and having P100 filters. For more information on chlorodiphenyl (54% chlorine) you can visit the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Operating Engineers Need Asbestos Handler Certificates

Future Environment Designs was recently working with a construction company that needed training to operate machinery (such as backhoes and excavators) inside an asbestos work area. These machines would be used to demolish a building that has asbestos containing roofing materials in place during the demolition.

Discussions with the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) determined that the operating engineers operating the machinery would require asbestos handler training (32 hours of training with a full day refresher annually thereafter) and certificates ($50 fee to NYSDOL; Our discussion with NYSDOL determined that it is there (NYSDOL) view that though operating engineers are not disturbing asbestos with their hands, they are disturbing asbestos with the machinery. Anyone that disturbs asbestos (by hand or machinery) are required to have an asbestos handler certificate. Operating engineers operating machinery inside an asbestos work area are required to have asbestos handler certificates. NYSDOL will enforce this position even though a separate asbestos contractor was hired to handle the asbestos at the site.

Realize this position means that the construction company employing these operating engineers needs to have an Asbestos Company License ($500 for an initial, $300 for a renewal; In addition, to getting the company license, the company needs an individual with an asbestos supervisor certificate to be the designated supervisor on the company license. This means someone from the construction company has to be trained at the 40 hour level.

In summary, all of this means any equipment being used in an asbestos work area must be operated by an operating engineer who has an asbestos handler certificate and works for a construction company that is licensed to abate asbestos containing materials. In addition, that asbestos construction company needs a designated supervisor who will be the competent person for the asbestos construction company and be responsible for any infractions at the worksite. If that sounds complicated to you now, imagine if there are violations at the worksite. Which asbestos contractor will be responsible? The asbestos abatement contractor (handling the asbestos) or the asbestos construction contractor (operating engineers)? This will be interesting to see!

Chrysotile Asbestos Banned? More Like Certain Conditions of Use Will Be Eventually Banned!

Many of you, as did I, read about the " Ban of Chrysotile Asbestos " and rejoiced over something long overdue.  However, after rea...