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Getting the right Hazardous Materials Audit

Posted by Ian Good on 18 October 2016

Getting the right Hazardous Materials Audit is important as not identifying of hazardous materials in refurbishment and construction projects can lead to huge cost blow outs.

Encountering unknown hazardous materials during refurbishment and construction projects are a significant potential risk for any projects. The most common issue is asbestos in pipes, sheeting which has been left on site or asbestos containing material buried in the soil. A recent examples of this occuring was  the redevelopment of a metropolitan car park site which had previously been filled with building rubble, some of which was asbestos containing material (ACM). The extension works of a regional hospital  uncovered a second world war military camp site which contained significant ACM.

Some other issues encountered during refurbishment works has been have been locating lead paint on structural beams. Lead paint was commonly used to coat steel structures as corrosion prevention. The removal of lead  paint should be undertaken in an appropriate controlled manner to reduce the potential of lead contamination entering the general environment. Many sites also have legacy issues such as the early uses of arsenic as a weed control agent around railway tracks and cyanide waste byproducts from the early gold mining operations.

The costs associated with unidentified hazardous materials can be significant and a hospital demolition project took another nine months and cost another million dollars as a result of finding previously unidentified asbestos lagged pipes in the intrinsic fabric of the buildings.

The widespread nature of hazardous materials and the difficulty of locating all of the hazardous materials present can provide an excellent rationale for getting a good quality hazardous materials audit undertaken prior to commencing projects.

It is also important for project managers to get a quote which reflects what will be tested and particularly the number of samples to be taken.  A common practice is to quote the costs of the Hazardous Materials Audit and add asbestos and other hazardous material samples as a variation. Project managers may be surprised to receive an invoice for the completed audit which has been inflated by excessive sampling practices or undertaking multiple samples of exactly the same material. A clear scope of work, an estimation of the type and number of samples and the locations where samples will be taken will provide project managers with an accurate comparison of the costs of audits.

Whether the company quoting has quality assurance in place and  operates their own NATA accredited laboratory is another important consideration.

There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account when getting a quality hazardous materials audit and the consequences for getting it wrong can be significant.

Author: Ian Good
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