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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Proficiency Day - Day One of PACNY's 24th Annual Environmental Conference!

Every year we look forward to the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York's (PACNY's) Environmental Conference.  This year was no exception considering it was the 24th annual.  The conference started on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, with Proficiency Day and Mr. Angelo Garcia, III of Future Environment Designs, Inc., (FEDTC) who had the honor this year of starting off the conference.  Proficiency Day this year focused on asbestos contamination assessment that was suggested by Mr. James Meacham, PE, of New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) and we greatly appreciated his agreeing to also do a presentation on the topic.  In addition, we were able to convince Mr. Bart Gallagher, of Enviroscience Consultants, Inc., to do a case study presentation on the contamination assessment involved with the Long Island dumping cases.  For the second year in a row, proficiency day provided 3 PDH for professional engineers, architects, & other certifications.

Poll Everywhere Result

Angelo Garcia, III's presentation focused on the regulatory requirements or the lack of regulatory requirements of asbestos contamination assessments. The presentation also included polling of the audience using Poll Everywhere.  The basic points of the presentation were that most of the information we use regarding contamination assessments come from the Guidance Document which was a frequently asked questions document created by NYSDOL as a supplement to NYSDOL Industrial Code Rule 56 - Asbestos Regulation and the collection of dust and debris samples is very tricky, and the most important thing is how do you interpret the results?

Mr. James Meacham, P.E. discussing Contamination Assessments
 James Meacham's presentation focused on some of the issues NYSDOL has been seeing regarding contamination assessments.  He discussed the assessment tools such as using your eyes, documentation, bulk sampling, air sampling, wipe sampling, micro-vacuum sampling, and tape lifts.  What do the results mean using these assessment tools and does it need to be zero?  Well maybe not.  Clean air under state law is less than 0.01 fibers per cubic centimeters of air (that's not zero).  Mr. Meacham also discussed debris pile assessment and the need for the inspector to visually inspect the debris for suspect asbestos-containing materials (ACM) and determine if representative sampling is feasible and can be done safely.  The presentation included a draft decision tree for debris assessment.

Bart Gallagher discussing the Case Study
After a short break, Bart Gallagher's presentation was on the contamination assessment that was done for the Long Island dumping case.  Mr. Gallagher's presentation went into the different causes of damage such as environmental causes or ignorance, carelessness, and neglect.  Criminal actions are rare...but are committed.  The specific points of the Long Island dumping case were that soil borings were done with Geoprobe and split-spoon sampling to test for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-VOCs, metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides.  Test trenches were more effective for finding ACM than the Geoprobe.  The variance application to NYSDOL was similar to 56-11.5 controlled demolition with machine excavation and loading into lined trucks/roll-offs, decontamination area for equipment, proper disposal, and project monitoring and air sampling.

"Remember I'm not in the book"
The first day then continued later that evening with the PACNY President's (Timothy Thomas, of Tetra Tech) reception which included drinks and appetizers and a lot of networking.  Some of the above presentations are available in our dropbox folder under conference presentations (2020PACNY presentations) or you can also find them at PACNY's website.  The first day went extremely well and did a great job warming everyone up for the conference yet to come!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Asbestos Training Providers in New York State are Shutdown Due to Covid-19

New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has alerted us that NYS asbestos safety training has been deemed a non-essential service during COVID19, in accordance with Executive Order 202.6.  All asbestos training providers should discontinue providing asbestos safety training courses, effective immediately. The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) is temporarily extending Asbestos Handling Certificate deadlines to help with this. More information from the NYSDOL can be found here

Chrysotile Asbestos Cobbing Station
Asbestos training providers will be notified when these restrictions have been lifted.  Providers should not notify for classes until the restrictions have been lifted.  There is no need for an asbestos training provider to send cancellations for the classes already scheduled during the closure, NYSDOH will automatically cancel these classes.

Future Environment Designs Keeping Your Employees Safe
Obviously, Future Environment Designs Training Center (FEDTC) will comply with these requirements and we will contact you once we are allowed to schedule classes, again.  We will be using this break to update our training materials with information we gained from recent Professional Abatement Contractors of New York (PACNY) Environmental Conference.
Respirable Silica Exposure
FEDTC would like to remind everyone that we also have some online safety courses that can be useful at this time to comply with various regulations.  Some of the courses we have include Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) hazard communication training; NYSDOL Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) Right-to-Know/HazComm training; OSHA respirator user training; OSHA Class IV worker/Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asbestos awareness training; OSHA respirable silica training; New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) investigator/supervisor/handler exam prep; and mold awareness.  Please visit our website to learn more about these courses at  You can register there to take these courses or contact us for special pricing for ordering more than one of these courses.  Thank you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Filtering Facepiece Respirator or a Dust Mask or N95 Respirator versus a Surgical Mask

Back in 2011 we posted this video from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Respirator Safety Video discussing the difference between respirators and surgical masks is a very good video to better understand the difference between these two pieces of equipment that can protect you from particular hazards.

There is a lot of confusion currently (during the coronavirus pandemic) about the difference between these two items.  The video above gives you a basic understanding.  To expand on that information realize the surgical mask does not protect the user from what's in the air its not designed to be a filter.  It's designed to protect the public from what the individual wearing it has.  Hence its popularity in Asian countries where it is considered a courtesy to wear it when you're sick.  See the chart below for more differences.

The filtering facepiece respirator was designed for the purpose of being lightweight, easy to use, and protect workers from particulates in the air but they are single-use (they should not be used for more than 8 hours and you throw them away).  If you're interested in learning about this mask's history read this article written in Fast Company "The untold origin story of the N95 mask".  Unfortunately, like most respirators, these need to be fit tested to ensure they fit correctly and also need to be fit checked to ensure it is placed on the face correctly.  An interesting point is that air will take the path of least resistance, and that is why respirators need to be fit tested to make sure all the air goes through the filter(s).  It is also why workers with facial hair cannot wear tight-fitting respirators.  The facial hair creates a path of least resistance into the respirator.  Digg posted an interesting video that shows a person coughing and the difference between a surgical mask (designed to protect the public) and an N95 respirator (designed to protect the user).  Properly putting on and taking off the N95 respirator is also important to make sure all the air goes through the filter.  See the video below to ensure you are doing this correctly.  Remember you should follow the manufacturer's procedures when putting on or taking off the respirator.

One more point, don't touch the filter it could be contaminated.  If you do immediately wash your hands or if unavailable use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  If you're sick you wear the surgical mask and keep your distance (3 feet or arms-length or the preferrable 6 feet) or better yet stay home!  If you are trying not to get sick you wear the N95 respirator.  However, if you have not been fit tested with the respirator, have not performed the fit check, have facial hair, or not wearing it properly then the respirator would be better off in a Doctor, Nurse, or Emergency Responders hands to help them with the shortages they are experiencing.  Just keep your distance or better yet stay at home!!! 
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Sunday, March 15, 2020

OSHA Fines Increase by 1.8%

On January 15, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has increased the maximum civil penalties (fines) for serious, other-than-serious, and posting requirements to $13,494, from $13,260.  Failure to Abate violations has increased to $13,494 per day beyond the abatement date from $13,260 and Willful/Repeat violations have increased to $134,937 from $132,598.  These civil penalty increases were mandated by Congress, on November 2, 2015, through legislation that required all federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation.  OSHA increased their penalties on August 1, 2016, the link to our previous blog post discussing that increase is below.  Moving forward, as the legislation requires, the penalties will be adjusted each year based on the Consumer Price indexClick here for the 2020 increase announcement.  OSHA will continue to do penalty reductions based on the size of the employer and other factors.  The OSHA January 10, 2020 details the penalty increase, minimum penalties, gravity-based penalty amounts, and serious willful penalty reductions.

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...