Can Asbestos Abatement Contractors Hire the Air Monitoring Firm?
Traditionally, school systems have hired independent firms to perform asbestos air monitoring and abatement contractor observation. Some school systems are now requiring asbestos abatement contractors to provide asbestos air monitoring and abatement contractor observation on their asbestos abatement projects.
I’ve recently heard some school systems are procuring asbestos air monitoring services through the abatement contractors in an effort to cap their asbestos air monitoring costs. Under this scenario, the asbestos abatement contractor includes asbestos air monitoring costs in his bid.
From a budgeting perspective, I get that. Since the asbestos abatement contractors controls much of the scheduling and progress, it makes sense to have them pay for services that increase in cost as the project lasts longer. It also reduces the amount of coordination the school board has to perform (in theory anyway).
At the same time, I think this can introduce the classic conflict of interest where there’s not a layer of separation between the asbestos abatement contractor and the firm that inspects, tests, and verifies asbestos abatement is complete. This is kind of like the fox guarding the henhouse.
To use a classroom analogy, we don’t allow students to grade their own tests, so why allow contractors to hire their own testing agency?
By the way, I ask this question for any testing, not just asbestos air monitoring.
The school system’s designated person is to ensure there’s no conflict of interest, and maybe some asbestos abatement contractors and air monitoring firms can work together under this scenario while maintaining transparency. I also have to admit that even when the Owner hires the air monitoring firm, conflicts can arise anyway.
But I also know there are some asbestos abatement consulting firms out there who also do asbestos abatement contracting, as well as asbestos air monitoring and contractor observation – all under one roof. There are asbestos abatement contractors who are closely tied to asbestos consulting firms, either through commercial partnership or family ties.
If those firms work on the same project and there’s no firewall between entities, there’s a built-in conflict potential, even if everything is done by the book.
Much of the time, perception is reality in this business. Who needs the headache?
The AAC-8 (Required Elements for Asbestos Management Plans for School and State Buildings) contains assurances the Designated Person makes saying all asbestos related work will be in compliance with the regulations. One assurance requires the Designated Person to make sure all parties involved in response actions (asbestos abatement, cleanup, encapsulation, etc.) do the work without conflict of interest.
I was curious to know what stance DEQ would have in the above situation. So I asked. Here are the questions I posed:
For school projects, can the abatement contractor directly hire the firm conducting visual inspections and clearance testing? Or is this something DEQ would discourage?
Given the scenario I described, I could see someone expanding on the scenario above by saying a firm could do the asbestos abatement design, asbestos abatement, and asbestos air monitoring, all as one entity. I’m not sure that’s the best idea.