Environmental Due Diligence: Why Should You Take It Seriously?

Simply stated, environmental due diligence is the commitment of an owner to pay attention and care of what is legally expected and required. As an owner/operator, you have heard over and over again about environmental issues such as Injury & Illness Prevention Programs (IIPP), asbestos sampling and lead disclosure, but may still hold the perception that these do not pertain to you or your properties.

Lets look at each of these areas separately:

IIPP (Injury & Illness Prevention Programs)

In 1989 the Cal-OSHA Act was amended by Senate Bill (SB) 198 to require every employer to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury & Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). The written program must include at least the following:

  • Identification of the person responsible for implementing the program (the Program Administrator)
  • A system for ensuring that employees comply with safe and healthful work practices
  • A system for communicating with employees about occupational health & safety matters, including encouraging employees to report worksite hazards
  • A system for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards, including scheduled periodic inspections
  • A procedure for investigating occupational injuries or illnesses
  • Methods and procedures for timely correction of unsafe or unhealthful work practices, including job specific training
  • A training program to instruct employees in safe and healthful work practices

Employers are required to train all employees when they are first hired, when the program is initiated, and whenever any new hazards are introduced into the workplace.

Asbestos Sampling

The process of identifying Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) within a facility is the first step in controlling building occupant exposure to asbestos fibers. The next step is to develop a written operations and maintenance (O&M) program to minimize the potential hazard posed by asbestos containing material.

The O & M program is a set of specific procedures and practices applied to building cleaning, maintenance, renovation and general operation to maintain the building as free of asbestos contamination as possible. The O & M program draws heavily on information generated during the building survey and becomes a key component of the management plan. Since, by law, asbestos must be removed from buildings before demolition, the O & M program is not a permanent solution. It is implemented as part of an overall asbestos management plan that has as it’s goal the elimination of asbestos exposure within the facility.

Lead Disclosure

The topic of lead has become one of the frequently talked about hazards within a building. The main reason for this is due to regulations from both the federal and state level. Housing Urban Development (HUD) released a title (Title X), that encompasses most all issues related to lead paint. Many individuals feel that if they pass out the “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home” pamphlet and disclose that the property is pre-1978, that they are completely covered and have performed due-diligence. Keep in mind that this alone does not keep an owner/operator out of harms way.

Lead-based paint in good condition is not a direct health hazard and should not be a concern to you or your tenants. Lead paint becomes hazardous only when it is:

  • In poor condition, begins to chalk, peel or chip
  • Damaged due to renovation or construction

Some Tips that will help:

  • An adequately trained maintenance staff can reduce both health and liability risks to the property owner.
  • Communicate with tenants, practice good building maintenance and comply with the existing laws.

Environmental due-diligence does not have to be a dark cloud over your complex, with a small amount of paperwork, some training and designated individuals, it can be part of your every day work practices.

About the Author

Wendy L. Johnson, President of Benchmark Environmental Engineering, has been in the environmental industry since 1986 specializing in asbestos, lead and indoor air quality. Her firm, Benchmark, specializes in building inspections, environmental engineering, specialized training and contract management. Clientele include NASA-Ames, Local Cities, California Apartment Association, Property Management Firms, Architects, Contractors and others.

Article credit shared with RHM Environmental and the Childhood Lead Prevention Program “The Lead-Safe Landlord.”

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