Do not press your luck with your asbestos management plan
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the 1980’s are coming back! Just look at the TV show and movie reboots that are happening, and I’m sure you’ve heard some of those great 80’s classic songs a bit more lately. Something else I’ve seen is a resurgence of 80’s game shows. I’ve seen the classic “Press Your Luck” on TV, and it immediately reminded me of the phrase “No whammies! Stop!”. Without a doubt, the Whammy is one of the great TV game show villains of all time, rivaled only by Alex Trebek’s accent when pronouncing foreign words. So it got me to thinking about how schools can avoid getting a whammy from regulatory agencies when it comes to asbestos management plans. It’s no fun getting a letter detailing asbestos management plan deficiencies after a visit from the regulatory folks. Kind of like getting a whammy.
Regulatory agencies have increased frequency of school asbestos management plan inspections. They’re finding many of the same asbestos management plan violations.
Here we’ll cover the most common asbestos management plan violations and how to fix your asbestos management plan so you can avoid the Whammy.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has stepped up efforts to ensure school systems comply with state and federal asbestos regulations. They’re getting around to schools, especially ones they haven’t yet visited.
Maintaining your asbestos management plan format is a challenge, but it has to be done. The top 4 common asbestos management plan violations are largely avoidable.
If you haven’t started moving your old asbestos management plans to the AAC-8 version, now is the time to get started. Or if you’ve neglected your asbestos management plans and let important tasks go undone, now is the time to get back on track.
I find that I’m spending more and more of my time helping new school clients get their asbestos management plans in order. So I decided to track the most common asbestos management plan violations.
What are the most common areas of concern (asbestos management plan violations)?
1. Not having the AAC-8 completed (100% of the schools in the study group).
Well, yeah. In Louisiana, DEQ expects schools to have moved their asbestos management plans to the AAC-8 format by now. If you haven’t, the DEQ inspector who visits your school will note these as asbestos management plan violations. Don’t worry about arguing over the interpretation of the asbestos regulations on this. Even if you have a perfect asbestos management plan right now, DEQ wants you to have your asbestos management plan in the AAC-8 format. Period. Or if not right now, the next time you make any change to the asbestos management plan, they’ll probably expect the AAC-8 format.
Very few school systems have moved to the new AAC-8 format. One reason is school systems don’t know they have to do this (and a lot of people in my line of work think the regulations don’t really require it – I agree somewhat, but I’ve decided not to fight city hall any longer). Another is the time and money required to make the change. Why fix something that may not be broken? While I can agree to a certain extent, getting a whammy over this is avoidable.
Reach out to your regional DEQ surveillance contacts. They want to help. When they find problems, they have to do a ton of paperwork, so ask them what they need, and try to incorporate it into your asbestos management plan. If you have to do it in steps, let them know you’re working on it. If they see you trying, rather than ignoring what you have to do, they’ll work with you.
2. No custodial or maintenance training (or training records). (50% of the schools in the study group).
Your custodial and maintenance personnel need two hours of asbestos awareness training. If you don’t have a record on paper or some sort of electronic data, it didn’t happen. The DEQ inspector will note these as asbestos management plan violations if they find no training records. This one’s tough due to high turnover, and communication between HR and the maintenance department. Some department heads have so many people working for them that it’s impossible to track who needs training for what.
Get your personnel together, either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Get coffee and donuts or pizza and do a 2-hour session, then allow time for questions. Make sure they sign in, and incorporate that data into your asbestos management plan. Pizza and donuts are better than whammies.
3. No six month periodic inspections (or regularly completed periodic surveillances) (50% of the schools in the study group).
The good news – anyone can do a six month periodic surveillance. So any of your people can perform them, but you need to make sure they know what to check. The bad news – you have to take the time and actually do them. And keep records (if you have no record, it didn’t….). Look at it as an opportunity to get out of the office and visit your sites.
4. No annual notifications (50% of the schools in the study group).
Every year, you have to provide notification of the asbestos management plan’s availability. The tough part of this is remembering to do it, even with a calendar reminder. In the old days, you’d publish a notification in the paper, or write a letter or publish the notification in the school newsletter. You can still write the letter or do a newsletter, but in a change I really like, DEQ allows you to email and even text the notification. Or better still, make the notification via the school’s website.
We’ve helped school systems and their IT folks move to the website notification method. If you’re interested, email me.
Honorable mention: No asbestos management plan for new school buildings or new facilities.
You’ll need a management planner to help complete the AAC-8 for new schools with no asbestos. So you’ll need to engage a firm (unless you’re lucky enough to have an in-house asbestos management planner) to help with this. I don’t agree with making schools do this, at least in this fashion. Maybe this will change someday. For now, as long as you have school buildings, you’ll have to have some sort of asbestos management plan – period.
There are other things you have to do for new schools. If you’re interested in finding out exactly what those are, email me.
You’re probably thinking, “Man, we’ve built 10 schools over the last 20 years, and we don’t have any of this stuff.”. You’re not alone. But you can get all the data together and get this done. As luck would have it, we have a checklist for these types of asbestos management plans. If you’d like to learn more, email me.
If DEQ hasn’t visited some (or all!) of your facilities in a while, I’d act now to make sure DEQ will be happy with your asbestos management plans as you move to the AAC-8 and keep the document up to date.
A few quick tips:
1. Visit your sites to make sure your onsite files are accessible – and complete.
2. Make sure to keep up with your Six Month Periodic Surveillances, Asbestos Management Plan Updates, and annual notifications.
3. Make sure your custodial and maintenance staff have received training.
4. If your schools are in Louisiana, start work to complete the AAC-8 forms.
5. Make sure the facility’s staff can locate your asbestos management plan binder – you probably won’t be there when DEQ stops by.
If you’ve been visited recently, I wouldn’t let my guard down.
If you need help getting your asbestos management plans in order (or help checking to make sure you’re in good shape), please call or email me.
Don’t press your luck, my friends. Avoid the whammies.