If you own a property and plan to do a renovation project of any size, or demolition of a structure, in the province of British Columbia, then a Hazardous Material (HazMat) Survey is required regardless of the building age. A structure built after December 31, 1990 still requires a Hazmat Survey but does not necessarily require the need to test for asbestos.
The Hazmat Survey is to identify hazardous materials on the property before the construction project begins so workers onsite may then be adequately informed of the hazards present and therefore can implement appropriate safety precautions such as wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) and implementing safe work procedures.
Hazmat Surveys include the following reporting criteria:
Hanta virus -rodent droppings
polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs)
ozone depleting substances
urea formaldehyde foam insulation
above ground storage tank (AGST)
flammables or explosives
other hazardous materials
A Hazmat Survey generally includes sampling for asbestos and lead paint. Other criteria are visually assessed, and those observations are noted in the report along with sample results. The only exception where testing is not required is when removing vermiculite insulation from an attic.
The Workers Compensation Act of British Columbia was created to protect all workers as governed by the BC Ministry of Labour. The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) also known as “WorkSafeBC” administers the Act on behalf of the Ministry of Labour. The Act gives WorkSafeBC the legal authority to create regulations such as the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Regulation and enforce the regulatory requirements by WorkSafeBC officers. The requirement to have a Hazmat Survey is found in section 20.112 under Part 20 Construction, Excavation and Demolition of the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation.
As the property owner, employer, property management group and/or general contractor you have the responsibility or “due diligence” to provide and maintain a safe working environment for all workers because you are the owner of and responsible for any hazards that may exist. Being unaware of hazards, especially without looking (not showing due diligence) or being negligent of the law is never a defensible excuse.
If purchasing a property in BC, the new owner will become responsible for all known and unknown hazards like asbestos, lead paint, contaminated soils and underground storage tanks that may be present. Undisclosed hazards become the responsibility of the new property owner as well and disputes may require litigation in court to be resolved.
Conducting a Hazmat Survey prior to purchasing a property may alert potential buyers to hazardous materials that may drastically affect the costs of a renovation or demolition project.
If the property owner conducts work themselves, or acts as General Contractor, all responsibility to provide a safe work environment falls on them. This means a HazMat Survey is to be made available for all workers. Plumbers, electricians, utility company and utility corporation workers are entitled to a safe working environment by WorkSafeBC OH&S regulations and may invoke Right to Refuse Unsafe Work if they feel hazards have not been addressed.
Other considerations include the ability to acquire a mortgage, receiving a building permit from the Municipality, building inspectors refusing to enter your property, legal and proper disposal of hazardous materials, risk of a Stop Work Order or penalties and fines by WorkSafeBC and/ or the Municipality.
Demolition Surveys are more destructive than a typical HazMat Survey allowing for a more comprehensive report of all hazardous materials for any given structure and site.