The web of American environmental laws:
Though he is usually remembered for other things, Richard Nixon was in some ways our most environmentally friendly president. Most observers mark the September 1962 publication of marine biologist Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (warning about the environmental damage done by synthetic pesticides like DDT) as the beginning of the environmental movement. But while the Clean Air Act (CAA) passed in the first months of the Johnson administration in December of 1963, it wasn’t until 1970 that executive orders by President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
These agencies were charged with protecting America’s environment, whether land, sea, or air. Also in 1970, Congress President Nixon answered, reassuring me that things were being done. Indeed they were.
In 1970, the President had signed the National Environmental Policy Act NEPA. It is America’s most important environmental law.
NEPA requires federal agencies to evaluate, study, and solicit public comments regarding the effect of proposed discretionary x federal policies, programs, plans, or projects on the natural and physical environment, as well as possible mitigation and alternative solutions. These effects may be ecological, economic, historical, aesthetic, social, cultural, or health-related.
After NEPA came the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act, in 1973.
Attention to manufactured threats
All of those laws, and their state counterparts, seek to protect the natural environment. Some laws, however, aim to protect us from threats we have created and brought into our homes and businesses.
The Toxic Substances Control Act bans the manufacture or import of chemicals not in an inventory of safe substances or exempt. New substances must be tested and maybe banned or restricted if they pose an unreasonable risk to health or the environment.
An example of hazardous substance control relates to asbestos. The first asbestos-related Worker’s Compensation claim was made in the late 1920s. Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits have been filed since then, including mass tort claims that are still ongoing.
Asbestos is covered by the TSCA, the EPA has found unreasonable risks to human health in 16 of 22 conditions of use.
Because merely breathing in an asbestos-laden building can cause deadly diseases, such buildings must be remediated or destroyed. But if this is done improperly, the workers involved can become ill. Therefore, on October 22, 1986, President Reagan signed into law the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), which became Title II of the TSCA.
Types of asbestos training
The EPA identified three general types of asbestos-related training in its regulations:
Type 1: Awareness Training
This training is for maintenance and custodial staff performing cleaning and minor maintenance tasks where asbestos-containing materials (known as ACM) may be accidentally released.
Two-hour Asbestos Awareness Training may include such topics as:
- Health effects of asbestos
- Background data on asbestos
- Worker protection protocols
- Locations of ACM in the workplace
- Spotting ACM damage and deterioration
- The operations and maintenance program for that building.
Type 2: Special Operations and Maintenance Training
This training is for maintenance and custodial workers involved in general maintenance and asbestos-containing material repair tasks.
For example, the job may involve the repair or removal of damaged heating system insulation or the installation of an electrical conduit in an air conditioning system containing ACM or ACM debris. This training lasts at least 14 hours. Special training usually involves more detailed discussions of the topics that are part o Type 1 training as well as:
- Federal, state, and local asbestos regulations
- Proper asbestos-related practices
- Introducing the proper methods of handling ACM, including waste handling and disposal
- Respirator use, care, and fit-testing
- Protective clothing wearing, use, and handling
- Hands-on exercises for ACM handling techniques.
- Appropriate worker decontamination procedures.
Type 3: Abatement Worker Training
This training is for workers who conduct asbestos abatement activities.
This work involves intentional contact with ACM. The training courses approved by the EPA or a state with an EPA-approved model course require the use of trained and accredited asbestos professionals when conducting asbestos inspection and remediation at schools and public and commercial buildings. It provides guidance to states on training requirements for asbestos control professionals.
These training courses range from 32 to 40 hours.
This type of training is much more extensive than Types 1 and 2, although it should include many of the same elements. Abatement worker training typically addresses a variety of specialized topics, such as:
- Pre-asbestos abatement work activities
- Work area preparation
- Establishing decontamination units.
- Personal protection equipment, including respirator selection, use, fit, and protective clothing.
- Worker decontamination procedures
- Safety in the abatement work area.
- Numerous practical hands-on exercises
- Proper handling and disposal of ACM waste.
The EPA recognizes five types of asbestos professionals for whom it requires training:
- Management planner, and
- Project designer.
In addition, a sixth training category (project monitor) is recommended by the EPA. A monitor is an owner’s or property manager’s on-site representative, interpreting specifications and procedures. While there are some classes and a few jobs in the $35-$50,000 range, this author can find no current certification process.
An introductory 32-hour course leading to AHERA certification as an Asbestos Worker by the EPA is mandatory for anyone involved in asbestos-related activities in public and commercial buildings, as well as those removing asbestos from schools.
The need for certified workers is huge. The EPA estimates there are 3.5 million buildings containing asbestos in the United States. The median salary for such workers is $44,791, compared to an overall per capita income of only $34,103.
Experienced asbestos workers can make over $70,000 per year.
An asbestos supervisor or contractor
Becoming an AHERA-certified asbestos supervisor or contractor requires a 40-hour training course and an eight-hour annual refresher class. The national median salary for this occupation is $64,910 but can exceed $101,000.
Being an AHERA-certified inspector requires knowledge of all the places asbestos may appear and state-of-the-art methods for remediation. AHERA Inspector Certification Training takes 24 hours, with a 4-hour annual refresher course.
Asbestos Inspectors’ median national income is $43,315 and can rise to $64,500
Asbestos management planner
Working as an AHERA certified asbestos management planner requires prior certification as an asbestos inspector plus 16 hours of additional training and a four-hour annual refresher course. Planners determine ACM management strategies after inspections.
The national median salary is $80,383, with senior positions paying $137,000 and more. But to enter this lucrative field takes specific EPA-approved training not available everywhere. And it’s important to be well trained, not just certified.
Mistakes on the job mean health risks for you and others. Learn from the best program you can find and be sure the training meets your state’s requirements. These requirements may be more stringent than Federal standards, but not less so.
AHERA Asbestos project designer certification
The Project Designer certification qualifies a certification holder to write specifications for asbestos work in schools and public, commercial, and industrial buildings.
Training covers all aspects of asbestos removal work and includes a focus on cost estimates, abatement specifications and drawings, contracts, and alternative control measures.
Certification requires 24 hours of training plus an annual 8-hour refresher course.
Median national salary ranges from $66,100 to $89,000.
One top training provider is AAA Environmental. Based in Spartanburg South Carolina, where its main training center is located, AAA instructors will also travel to clients’ offices.
Its certificates are accepted by regulators in 46 states. It is a woman-owned business whose primary shareholder is physically challenged.
AAA Environmental was incorporated in 1987, immediately after the passage of AHERA, and has been in business for almost thirty-five years.
Other environmental expertise
Although it is primarily engaged in training regarding asbestos, the staff at AAA Environmental is highly knowledgeable and broadly certified in environmental matters. If needed, it can perform inspections or investigations inspections, project design, and project management related to asbestos, lead-based paint, and indoor air quality.
It also offers to test the concentration of lead in water, (the presence of lead in air, water, dust, or consumer products like lead paint can cause heavy metal poisoning, leading to anemia, intellectual impairment, lack of emotional control, abdominal pain, and irritability) noise surveys, (excessive noise and/or vibration has been found to be harmful and cause stress-related illnesses, hypertension, speech difficulties, hearing loss, disrupted sleep, and lost productivity. It is prohibited by workplace health and safety standards) and industrial hygiene monitoring.
(The Occupational Safety and Health Administrator defines industrial hygiene as “that science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising, in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health, and well-being, or significant discomfort among workers or among the citizens of the community.”)
Consistent with its focus on industrial hygiene and its concern for the safety of its employees and clients, AAA is offering training and articles on its website blog addressing best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
AAA Environmental has a strong and loyal customer base. Clients are drawn back by the breadth and depth of staff expertise and the warmth of service received. Below are some representative comments from satisfied customers:
“I’ve been attending AAA annual classes since I moved to the Carolinas in 1994. Great people, great instructors, great content- 5 stars!”
“Great training class, knowledgeable instructors”
“Good training provider for my yearly refresher courses. I go here for asbestos and lead-based paint training.”
“A lot of great information. The instructor was very helpful in explaining different tasks that come with the job.”
“Excellent training program with a top… staff …in an environment that is very conducive to learning and coaching trainee. I really enjoyed my classes.”
If you want to be an asbestos professional or require other environmental training, contact AAA Environmental toll-free at 864-582-1222, or online at www.aaaenvironmental.com
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