Naturally Occurring Asbestos – Construction Projects

We have found general confusion with many contractors regarding applying the current Cal/OSHA (Title 8 CCR 1529) regulation involving naturally occurring asbestos (NOA).  We have addressed this issue in a previous blog.  Asbestos as a natural constituent in soil is included in the scope of 8 CCR 1529 as follows, “Excavation which may involve exposure to asbestos as a natural constituent which is not related to asbestos mining and milling activities.”  However there is no other specific language or requirements for work involving NOA.  The current Asbestos standard focuses primarily on the disturbance and removal of installed asbestos-containing building material.  Unlike the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), there is no minimal concentration in the soil where the Cal/OSHA regulations apply. DTSC and CARB have a threshold concentration of 0.25% asbestos in the soil, below which the standards do not apply.  In addition DTSC and CARB have specific testing and control requirements for work with NOA.  This is not true for Cal/OSHA.  That means use of respiratory protection, air monitoring, training, etc., as spelled out in the Cal/OSHA standard are required if you are dealing with NOA regardless of the levels or controls which may be in place (such as wetting the soil during excavation activities).

A task force of health and safety professionals including the California Industrial Hygiene Council (CIHC) requested the California Occupational Safety and Health Board (OSHSB) to address NOA specifically in 8 CCR 1529.  They requested that the OSHSB address the specific hazards and controls needed for working with NOA.  The petition was granted and it is my understanding that an advisory committee will be established in 2019 to take up the subject of changes to the regulation.

Specific regulations for NOA activities are greatly needed and long overdue.  I applaud the OSHSB for agreeing to take this on.  It is extremely difficult to try to fit the current regulations working with asbestos as natural constituent.  The Cohen Group will keep you abreast of any changes.