Building Officials, Cities and Counties Risk Asbestos Exposure

Current law in Colorado as well as federal law for all states, requires inspections of all possible asbestos containing building materials to be disturbed as a part of building renovations or demolitions to determine the presence or lack of asbestos prior to being disturbed.

Most building officials do NOT require testing for asbestos prior to renovations or demolitions as a part of the permit process. The Building Officials explanation is; that it is NOT the responsibility of the city or county building department to enforce federal and state building regulations.

In fact, This is entirley incorrect. U.S. Federal Law CFR 40 763.122 Extends Glossary Link OSHA requirements for Asbestos Worker Protection to all government employeers. This means that all municipal employeers in the USA are required by federal law to ensure that the municipal employee is protected from any potential asbestos exposure. Any municipality or building official that refuses to emplement a plan to do so is in direct violatrion of federal law.

Some opine, the willing, knowing and intentional refusal to follow federal law increases the civil liabilities to the municipality when employees are exposed and/or contract asbestos related lung diseases such as asbestosis or mesothelioma. The conciquencial damages extend to others......

The consequences of the building official’s refusal to enforce the requirements are far reaching and include possible asbestos exposure to construction workers, architects, engineers, homeowners, building inspectors, and anyone else who may come in contact with structures that are renovated but not tested.

Building officials who refuse to require asbestos inspections may also expose the city, county or other jurisdictions to an increased financial liability when municipal employees who work for the building department are exposed to asbestos contamination. Municipal building inspectors who perform inspections on renovation or demolition sites, where asbestos inspections were not required by the building official, may be exposed to asbestos contamination AND may increase the inspectors risk to contracting an asbestos related lung disease such as mesothelioma.

City or county building inspectors who are exposed to asbestos as a result of this negligence and who contract asbestos related lung diseases, may have legal recourse and sue the city or county for damages, especially when a building official knowingly refused to require asbestos inspections which could have protected the government employees and public from asbestos contamination exposure.

This situation in turn places the citizens of the jurisdiction at financial risk when government employees (building inspectors) who are exposed to health risk by the building official’s irresponsible lack of action to protect the public sue the minicipality an win big judgements. If the jurisdictions insurance carrier deny coverage, siting that the government should have or did know they were required to follow OSHA worker protection rules, the insurance providers would have a ligitimate reason for denyal of coverage. This situation would leave the public/citizens liable to pay for damages.

The overall impact is long term and there is no doubt that future lawsuits against city/counties will be filed by city/county employees. The building official and/or municipality can begin to reduce this liability risk to the public and inspectors by requiring asbestos inspections as statute dictates, consequentially, reducing the financial liability to the jurisdiction.

It is a minimal burden to require that a certified asbestos inspector evaluate the structure prior to renovation or demolition and to obtain a copy of the inspection report for the building departments files.

The building official would not need to do anything other than implement the requirement and file an inspection report provided by a certified asbestos inspector.


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