California Asbestos Inspector: What Makes An Inspector Qualified?

posted in: Asbestos, Working With Asbestos | 0

Qualified, Certified, Licensed, Trusted Inspection

 

I’m writing this article in response to a number of fraudulent inspectors in California that act as certified professionals to get a quick buck in a dangerous industry. Unlicensed professionals performing asbestos-related work can be hazardous and illegal. Years of experience and training is required to safely identify and work with asbestos.

Someone without those qualifications can place a victim in an environmental disaster with misguided data. On the flip side, some may market as budget inspectors, but they can cause financial damages in false reports, false claims, and clean up jobs. These financial burdens can be a result of false findings of asbestos, or failed permits due to lack of licensing. It is possible that some inspectors may not realize they’re not certified properly, and they may have the best of intention, but it is a professional’s duty to do their due diligence to ensure they’re doing their work properly.

Motivated by recent stories, I dedicated this week’s post to identifying what makes an inspector qualified to check for asbestos in California.
The home inspection and the building inspection industry can be a big mystery to someone uncommon in the field. Unlike most other professions, multiple government agencies are regulating them with conflicting interest. There will be cases where a simple online training would suffice qualification in a state, but the physical experience is a requirement in a county. To know what is proper, legal, ethical, or correct is to understand all the regulations from each federal agencies, state agencies, and county. Even with the knowledge, conflicting requirements exist.

As I mentioned above, there are way too many avenues to focus on in the building inspection world, so for this article, we are going to discuss asbestos inspection. As a representative from a California asbestos consultant company, I feel it is best if we focus on California’s regulations on asbestos inspections. Let’s start with the big picture of the asbestos inspection with the federal requirements.

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Federal – EPA

Environmental Protection Agency were one of the first agencies to regulate asbestos inspections. Their first regulations, Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), promulgated in 1986 required that all schools, grades K-12, be inspected for the presence of Asbestos-Containing Building Material (ACBM). As it required schools to be inspected, it also mandated the training courses to be considered qualified for these inspections. These courses were known as AHERA accredited. Effective 1992, the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act (ASHARA) required that any asbestos inspection conducted in a public or commercial building be performed by an accredited Building Inspector. This regulation opened the requirement to all facilities outside of the first regulation with AHERA. According to these two regulations by EPA, an accredited building inspector is someone who has completed the AHERA accredited three-day building inspector course with a passing grade. According to Federal EPA’s regulations, you are good to go with these requirements. Fortunately, that is not enough qualifications to perform inspections in California. This is because stricter regulations exist, and as a

Effective 1992, the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act (ASHARA) required that any asbestos inspection conducted in a public or commercial building be performed by an accredited Building Inspector. This regulation opened the requirement to all facilities outside of the first regulation with AHERA. According to these two regulations by EPA, an accredited building inspector is someone who has completed the AHERA accredited three-day building inspector course with a passing grade. According to Federal EPA’s regulations, you are good to go with these requirements. Fortunately, that is not enough qualifications to perform inspections in California. This is because stricter regulations exist, and as a

According to these two regulations by EPA, an accredited building inspector is someone who has completed the AHERA accredited three-day building inspector course with a passing grade. According to Federal EPA’s regulations, you are good to go with these requirements. Fortunately, that is not enough qualifications to perform inspections in California. This is because stricter regulations exist, and as a

Fortunately, that is not enough qualifications to perform inspections in California. This is because stricter regulations exist, and as a result, must be followed to comply towards that agency. Which agency? We will get through them all by the end of this post (I’ll give you a clue, it’s with the state). Now for the next federal agency.

Health and Safety at work - OSHA

Federal – OSHA

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) focus is on workers safety, and their environment. OSHA references EPA’s AHERA regulation as an asbestos inspector. This means the three-day AHERA building inspector would suffice. The only difference with federal OSHA is when it comes to asbestos removal. OSHA designates the inspector on site as the “competent person” who also acts as a supervisor. The competent person must oversee the project and perform an inspection to ensure asbestos exposure is under control, and none of the workers are being exposed. Depending on the class of asbestos work, different qualifications are needed. If a Class I or II asbestos work is being performed, then an AHERA accredited 40 Hour Supervisor course is required. For Class III or IV asbestos work, an asbestos awareness course is required, though if you have the AHERA accredited building inspector course, it will count towards it.

OSHA designates the inspector on site as the “competent person” who also acts as a supervisor. The competent person must oversee the project and perform an inspection to ensure asbestos exposure is under control, and none of the workers are being exposed. Depending on the class of asbestos work, different qualifications are needed. If a Class I or II asbestos work is being performed, then an AHERA accredited 40 Hour Supervisor course is required. For Class III or IV asbestos work, an asbestos awareness course is required, though if you have the AHERA accredited building inspector course, it will count towards it.

If a Class I or II asbestos work is being performed, then an AHERA accredited 40 Hour Supervisor course is required. For Class III or IV asbestos work, an asbestos awareness course is required, though if you have the AHERA accredited building inspector course, it will count towards it.
Overall, in a nonasbestos work environment, an AHERA 24 hour building inspector course would suffice. In an asbestos work environment, an AHERA 40 hour supervisor course is also required for inspection. As hinted earlier, this is the federal requirement, but not the state requirement for California.

Now that we covered the federal level let’s zoom in a little towards the state agencies.

DOSH – Cal/OSHA

The Department of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, is an agency of the government of California. Their focus is public health and safety in relations to hazards on the job. They’re concerned with both the staff working at the workplace, as well as the public use of certain mechanical types of equipment such as elevators and ski lifts. In California, this agency has the primary regulations and requirements for an asbestos inspection. To comply with California’s requirements for asbestos inspections, you must follow Cal/OSHA’s requirements.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.
As of 1992, California state law has required Asbestos Consultants and Site Surveillance Technicians to be certified by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health if they contract to provide professional health and safety services relating to asbestos-containing construction materials that comprise 100 or more square feet of surface area.
That is directly from DOSH Asbestos Consultant Certification package. DOSH created the Asbestos Consultant and Trainer Approval Unit to regulate the Certification of Asbestos Consultants and Site Technicians. Now to further understand this let’s break down what is an Asbestos Consultant and a Site Surveillance Technician.

Asbestos Certified Professional

Certified Asbestos Consultant – CAC

As listed in DOSH Asbestos Consultant certification package

“Any person who contracts to provide professional health and safety services relating to asbestos-containing construction material, ACCM, which comprises 100 square feet or more of surface area, as defined in Title 8 California Code of Regulations 1529. The activities of an Asbestos Consultant include building inspection, abatement project design, contract administration, sample collection, preparation of asbestos management plans, clearance monitoring, and supervision of Site Surveillance Technicians.”

This certification is what allows an inspector to perform an asbestos inspection in California. To perform an asbestos inspection in the state of California, you need to have a current CAC license. To obtain a CAC, you are required to have certain training and experience. The training includes the completion of the following AHERA courses:

  • Initial Management Planner
  • Abatement Project Designer
  • Abatement Contractor/Supervisor
  • Building Inspector

All of these courses provide certification in each of their respective fields as accredited by AHERA. Once a year, these certifications must be renewed to remain active. If any of the certifications expire then, the CAC is considered inactive.
Notice how Federal EPA’s AHERA regulations has an effect with the state agency. Federal EPA created the program for training, but DOSH made it mandatory to take all of the AHERA courses to be considered an Asbestos professional in the state.

 

As for Experience:

  • One year of asbestos-related experience with a related B.S. Degree
  • Two years of asbestos-related experience with any B.S. Degree
  • Three years of asbestos-related experience with a related A.A. Degree
  • Four years of asbestos-related experience with a high school Diploma.

To gain these experience, you must work under the supervision of a CAC.

In comparison to the federal level, the state asbestos inspector is more fit to perform the asbestos inspection than the federal requirements. Not only do they require more qualifications, but it is the legal requirement in the state of California. You cannot perform asbestos inspection legally without a CAC. The only exception is an individual with a CSST.

Certified Site Surveillance Technician – CSST

According to the DOSH Asbestos Consultant certification package

Any person who acts as an independent on-site representative of an Asbestos Consultant. The Site Surveillance Technician monitors the asbestos abatement activities of others, provides asbestos air monitoring services for area and personal samples, and performs building surveys and contract administration at the direction of an Asbestos Consultant.

A CSST can be on the site representative of a CAC. A CSST is allowed to perform an asbestos inspection as a representative to an Asbestos Consultant. Now the requirements to become a CSST is much more lenient.
The AHERA requirements are as followed:

  • Initial Building Inspector
  • Abatement Contractor/Supervisor

Similar to the CAC, recertification is required once a year. As for experience, a CSST in training is only required to have a high school diploma and six months of asbestos-related work under the supervision of a certified asbestos consultant.

A lot easier to obtain a license as a CSST, but it is illegal for a CSST to act alone. A CSST can only work under the supervision of a CAC. Let’s add this information to the statement mentioned above; asbestos inspection can only be performed by a CAC or a CSST under the supervision of a CAC. That is the requirement in California as set forth by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Overview:

Let us summarize the answer to the question, what makes an inspector qualified to check for asbestos.

In the State of California, you must have a Certified Asbestos Consultant (CAC) or a Certified Site Surveillance Technician (CSST) under the supervision of a CAC perform the asbestos inspection.
The CAC is required to have the following active certifications:

  • AHERA Initial Management Planner
  • AHERA Abatement Project Designer
  • AHERA Abatement Contractor/Supervisor
  • AHERA Building Inspector

They will also have an active CAC card. If unsure about the professional, ask about his certifications. A CAC will have no problem showing them to you as particular job sites require them to be present.

If they’re a CSST they are required to have the following active certifications:

  • AHERA Abatement Contractor/Supervisor
  • AHERA Building Inspector

Similar to the CAC, they will also have these on file.

A CAC and CSST will follow all agencies in regards to asbestos inspections in California. Other agencies have a say in asbestos, but we are only focusing on those that deal with an asbestos inspection.

To determine if a company or an inspector is a Certified Asbestos Consultant or a Certified Site Surveillance Technician, they can look under the DOSH directory to see if there is an active license.

 

A little warning:

  • Be aware of inspectors claiming to be professionals without the proper accreditations. An inspector may claim to be certified at the Federal level, but that is not sufficient in the state of California.
  • Be sure to research the company before performing any inspections to ensure your inspection is done safely and legally. When dealing with potential environmental hazards such as asbestos, it is wise to go with the right professional to ensure the job is done right and legally.
  • Remember to use DOSH’s directory to determine if the inspector is qualified to work.