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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

5 Benefits of Online Safety Training by Natasha Serafimovska

The construction industry has come a long way since the early 1900s when the world was just learning about the harmful effects of asbestos and mold on people’s health. Today, Local Law 196 by the City of New York and other government regulations make safety training mandatory for all construction workers to ensure their own safety as well as the safety of others.

Online Safety Training

Despite New York's construction industry shrinking 8.5% since the pandemic hit, experts expect it to quickly recover and serve as the backbone of the U.S. economy in upcoming years. Construction in healthcare is expected to see the biggest rise with growth of 38% between 2020 and 2023

All of this is great news for construction workers as well as individuals who might be out of a job and thinking about joining the industry. However, this news also means that there will be an increased demand for safety training in times when physical movement and social interactions are very limited.

This is where online training can make a real difference. Traditionally associated with soft skills and IT training, online learning is a real game-changer when it comes to health and safety training. Not only is it more affordable than its face-to-face alternative, but it’s far more flexible and accessible in a time when people’s mobility is restricted.

Whether you’re looking for mold remediation certification or asbestos training classes, here we cover the top five benefits you can expect from your online safety training.

Asbestos pipe insulation

It’s More Affordable

When it comes to safety, no cost is too high. Still, the increase in job uncertainty and market volatility has made people very cost-sensitive. In a world where no job is secure, every cent counts. 

In this context, online training is a winner as online courses can be as much as 10 times less expensive than its face-to-face alternative. In-person training often requires significant logistical effort, both from the training provider and the construction worker. This includes the time the instructor needs to spend in preparing for and delivering training, printing and preparing materials, arriving at and leaving the training premises, etc. Likewise, the construction worker needs to invest time in getting to and out of their training, taking away from the valuable time they can spend working or with their families. 


Online training removes all of this complexity while not compromising on quality, making it a super affordable option. Learners need a computer or a smartphone with a good internet connection and they’re good to go.

Silica Sampling

Easy Access to the Latest Information

Health and safety standards are continuously updated in order to keep in line with the latest research and developments in healthcare. One clear example is the pandemic and the sudden need for training on SARS-CoV-2 for all construction workers.

However, updating materials when they’re printed and ready for distribution might not be the easiest task. Say, for instance, there was a slight change in regulations on how construction workers need to secure a space before they commence work. If the training is already scheduled for the following day, there might not be enough time to get the training materials updated in time for that training session.

However, that isn’t the case with online training. Online learning materials can be uploaded in small learning units which can easily be edited and re-uploaded to reflect the latest information on the topic. Regardless of whether you bought the training before the change was introduced, your online training materials will always be up-to-date. 

COVID-19 Training

Accessible at Any Time, Anywhere

Online safety training might not have been an option 30 or even 20 years ago because the internet was still not a thing. However, the last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the adoption of online learning across all industries. This is not only because learning technologies have greatly evolved in this period, but also because individuals have become increasingly interconnected with the use of smartphones. 

The fact that you can now get training while commuting from work or during your lunch break at work means that you can save yourself a great amount of time. No longer do you need to block out days from your calendar to take hours-long training. Nor do you need to take time off of work to finish the training before your certificate expires. Online training puts you in the driver’s seat on where and when you get trained without making any major changes to your schedule.  

It’s More Personalised

Face-to-face training works well because it’s familiar and people know what to expect. However, face-to-face training is also designed to fit the needs of the group, leaving very little room for a personalized approach to training. If you’re struggling with one part of the training, it will require an extra effort on your part to flag that up with your instructor and get additional support.

Online training makes this much easier as the instructor can often see how you’re progressing through the coursework and offer advice on additional materials you might benefit from, all from the comfort of your own home. Likewise, different people have different learning styles. While you might prefer to learn through videos, others could learn better by hearing a step-by-step guide on how something is done. Online training offers that flexibility where learning materials can come either as videos, audio recordings, or digital instruction manuals for you to use. This can make the learning process more engaging and effective and help you learn better.

Construction Safety Training

It’s Easily Scalable

When training people on-site, there’s a limit to how many people can attend the training based on compliance requirements as well as restrictions imposed by the pandemic. This could mean that you won’t be able to get your slot well into the future depending on available spaces.

This can make things complicated if your certificate is about to expire and you require to take your training within a very limited timeframe. Online training solves that problem by making it possible for any number of people to book their training at any given time. There’s no problem with over-booking or under-booking training sessions, meaning that your training is always going ahead. Not to mention that the training will always be delivered at the highest possible standard, to all people attending the course.

Online training has often been pushed to the sidelines when it comes to safety training. Some people might argue that there’s something counterintuitive in delivering safety training remotely. However, nothing can be further from the truth. A big part of what construction workers have to know has to do with observing regulations and standards and understanding how to maneuver in a potentially hazardous environment. A lot of this learning can be done online, at home, saving yourself and the instructor time and money. And that is something we can all use a bit more of today.

Monday, February 01, 2021

NYSDOL and NYCDEP Provide Guidance for Asbestos Project Designers Applying for Variances!

In our blogpost "PACNY's Environmental Conference Day Three - A NYSDOL Surprises with Fast Track Variances!"  we discussed the New York State Department of Labor's (NYSDOL) Engineering Services Unit (ESU) announcement at last year's Professional Abatement Contractors of New York's (PACNY's) 2020 Environmental Conference, of a pilot program for certain site-specific variances.  These new variances are called Fast Track Variances.  These are variances that the ESU has been issuing regularly and don't really change each time an asbestos project designer requests them.  ESU has created 10 Fast Track Variances and may create more in the future.

NYSDOL ESU's Ed Smyth discussing variances at PACNY

In addition, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) has released a service notice regarding the filing of an ACP-9 variance request "Variance (ACP-9) Filing Instructions".  The service notice gives instructions on the information that must be provided in applying for a variance from NYCDEP.  Required documents for NYCDEP include the building authorization letter; the ACP-9 form including fee ($300-$1,800); and the proposed method of work (variance proposal) and layout drawing.  NYCDEP also has the equivalent of Fast Track Variances which they call Attachments (there are 13 of them).  Visit Future Environment Designs Training Center's (FEDTC's) dropbox folder to access them.   

NYCDEP Attachment D & DI are regarding remote decons and decons inside the work area.

The process for getting a Fast Track Variance from NYSDOL ESU for all intents and purposes is the same for getting a site-specific variance.  You will still need a licensed and certified project designer to sign and complete the SH 752 application.  The application must be completed fully including the hardship.  One difference is no information about the work plan should be included in the SH 752 application.  The variance fee is still $350.  In section 9, Industrial Code Rule 56 (ICR56) Relief Sought, of the SH 752 application the designer must enter the Fast Track Variance number they are seeking.  There are 10 Fast Track Variances:

Available Fast-Track Variances
FTV NumberFTV Name
FTV-1Negative Air Shutdown
FTV-2Exhausting to An Interior Space
FTV-3Elevator Door Removal
FTV-4Fire Door Removal
FTV-5Crawlspace with Dirt Floor
FTV-6Intact Component Removal
FTV-7Buried Cementitious (e.g. Transite) Pipe
FTV-8HEPA Drilling Spot Removal
FTV-9Air Sampling at Elevated Exhaust Duct Locations
FTV-10Controlled Demolition with Non-Friable in Place

As you can see each variance deals with very specific situations.  We summarize these specific situations below:  
  • Fast Track Variance-1 (FTV-1) is about shutting down the negative air units overnight.  The negative air units must run a minimum of 30 minutes after completion of all abatement/cleaning activity for the day and must run 30 minutes after the manometer achieves a negative 0.02 water pressure differential before entering the work area the next day. 
  • FTV-2 is about exhausting negative air machines to an interior space.  The variance requires air monitoring of each negative air exhaust (no banking allowed) and must be exhausted into an existing, vacant room or an area within a larger space isolated, consistent with vacate, restrict entry, & post signs (ICR56-7.4) by barrier tape and warning signs.  The location must be adequately sized to accommodate the increase in positive pressure to the area.  All openings within 25 feet of the negative air machine exhaust must be sealed with two layers of 6 mil fire retardant poly.  The variance includes a process for elevated air monitoring results. 
  • FTV-3 is about the removal of ACM filled elevator doors intact without impact to the matrix during removal operations.  Project monitor required, elevator technician involved with door removal must be allied trades certified, no waiting periods, air samples 10 feet from the barriers, and inside the work area.  The most recent final air sample results are the clearance results if they meet the clearance standard.
  • FTV-4 is about the removal of ACM filled fire doors intact without impact to the matrix during removal operations.  Not surprisingly this variance seems exactly the same as FTV-3 without the elevator technician.
  • FTV-5 is about the removal of pipe insulation and dirt in a crawl space.  The variance requires attached large project personal and waste decontamination unit but allows, if space limitations, for a small project personal and waste combination decontamination unit in accordance with ICR56-7.5 (c) & 56-7.5(e9).  If no public access, it allows 2-layer six-mil fire retardant plastic sheeting in lieu of hardwall barriers.  8 air changes per hour required.  Glovebags without tents allowed.  Soil removal as per American Society Testing and Materials (ASTM) 1368 (latest edition), Section 9.1.1-9.1.5 inspection criteria.  It is interesting to note that the requirement does not include 9.1.6 & 9.1.7 of the standard.  9.1.6 uses a personal sampler on the project monitor during the visual inspection as a representative indication of fiber exposure for re-occupancy and 9.1.7 discusses soil sampling in accordance with ASTM test method D7521.  In addition, to the regular air sampling for an asbestos project, air sampling inside the work area is required for the entire work shift based on the size of the project (i.e. 1-minor, 3-small, 5-large).  The project requires a prep waiting (4-hours) and a final drying/settling period (8-hour).  Clearance is based on the most recent daily abatement air samples collected during cleaning operations.
  • FTV-6 is the intact removal of nonfriable ACM components.  The variance allows removal inside of tents or removal as part of a larger work area.  Removal without tents requires critical barriers and dropcloths.   Background sampling and a pre-abatement waiting period are not required.  Power tools require manufacturer equipped shroud and HEPA-vacuum.  Daily inside work area samples (i.e. 1-minor, 3-small, 5-large) required in addition to the regular during abatement samples.  The most recent daily samples will be used to compare to the clearance criteria after the visual inspection by the project monitor.  There is only one drying/settling period, time is based on the item being removed can be either 4- or 2-hours. 
  • FTV-7 is for the removal of non-friable ACM transite piping from below ground.  One of the requirements is the regulated area, decontamination units, airlocks, and dumpster area shall be cordoned off at a distance of 25 feet, if not then a daily abatement air sample shall be collected in the reduced barrier.  In addition, even if you do the 25 feet condoning off, the variance requires air sampling taken on opposites of the work area at the perimeter barriers.  Extending those barriers.  In our opinion, this requirement by itself seems onerous.  We realize not all projects are in a roadway but for those projects that are this means closing the roadway or closing a few lanes or setting up a sample in the middle of the road which means your shutting that road anyway.  Meaning these projects will probably require flaggers to control the traffic around these barriers.  The variance allows the equipment operator to be allied trades (see our blogpost regarding the difference between allied trades and operations & maintenance) as long as they only excavate the soil to within 6 inches of the buried pipe and lifting the section out of the trench using nylon slings.  Requires a negative pressure tent if sawing or other methods that would render the piping friable.  Requires project monitor visual inspection to complete the project.
  • FTV-8 is HEPA-drilling to allow for the installations of building system upgrades into ACM joint compound/drywall wall and ceiling.  Requires dropcloth decontamination area and dropcloth under each drilling/cutting location.  Power tools require a shroud and HEPA vacuum.  Requires wet methods (allows shaving cream or foam as a wet method).  Supervisor visual inspection as per minor projects.
  • FTV-9 is air sampling of elevated exhaust duct locations.  Basically, if the negative air exhaust ducts are exhausting at a height above ground where air sampling of the exhaust is not possible, that is this variance.  We find this an interesting variance in that most consultants that work on high-rise buildings throughout the state should be applying for this variance. 
  • FTV-10 is controlled demolition with nonfriables to remain.  Requires a full-time project monitor on-site and the individual will have a number of specific requirements.  One of the most interesting requirements of the variance is the requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Document 340/1-92-013 "EPA Guide to Normal Demolition Practices Under the Asbestos NESHAP" be consulted by the petitioner to anticipate demolition methods will cause Regulated Asbestos Containing Materials (RACM) to be created.  This EPA document published in 1992 is an excellent source of information from EPA about various demolition practices and whether those practices will cause a category I or II nonfriable asbestos-containing material to become a RACM.  Air sampling for the variance includes the usual large project requirements for air sampling plus air sampling upwind and downwind of the work area.  Soil/Earth/Dirt cleanup has to meet the ASTM 1368, Sections 9.1.1-9.1.5 inspection criteria.

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...