OSHA and Naturally Occurring Asbestos

An interesting question came into our office regarding Cal/OSHA requirements in dealing with Naturally Occurring Asbestos (NOA).  The Cal/OSHA Construction standard for asbestos (Section 1529) interestingly identifies several activities that apply to the standard including, “excavation that may involve exposure to naturally occurring asbestos, excluding asbestos mining and milling activities.”  Therefore if you are disturbing NOA by your excavating activities, you must comply with 1529.  We could stop there and because NOA seems to be almost ubiquitous in our State we could simply say “all excavations” should be subject to the Cal/OSHA Asbestos Standard.  It is also clear from reading 1529 that there is no de minimus level of asbestos in the ground below which the Cal/OSHA standard does not apply. That means air monitoring, training, etc., as spelled out in the standard, are all required if you are dealing with NOA.  Simply put, if you are performing any excavations in California, it is best to assume asbestos is present unless you have information to the contrary.

That said, it is also clear that not all of Cal/OSHA rules dealing with asbestos applies to performing work with NOA.  For example, registration for disturbing 100 square feet or more of material is not required.  The use of Certified Asbestos Consultants (CAC) is also not required.  Why you ask?  Because these activities are only required when performing “asbestos-related work” which is defined as disturbing “asbestos containing construction materials” (ACCM).  ACCM is defined as a “manufactured construction material.”  Obviously, NOA is not a manufactured material.

I hope this all makes sense as you move through the asbestos maze. I didn’t discuss the requirements of EPA or AQMDs which also have rules when dealing with NOA.  Call or email us if you have any additional questions on this topic.