Inspectors And Asbestos: How They Differ

Asbestos inspections by building inspectors in Pukekohe have always been the primary duty of the General Building Inspection Scheme (GBIS). But recently, the Commercial Building Regulations (CBD) was amended in 2021 and now gives building inspectors of non-specialised trades, such as gardeners and plumbers, a new discretionary right to make an asbestos inspection report within the premises of their own building. This is commonly referred to as the ‘builders report in Pukekohe’. It is essentially a document that provides detailed information about the status of a particular site as at the present time, and includes a brief description of the site, its status, and what can be expected in the future.

There are many instances where asbestos could be found in the building environment. For instance, pre asbestos surveys may not have detected it, or the material may have been removed, cleaned and decomposed for many years, yet left behind a potentially cancerous condition. It is likely that some building materials, which have been treated with asbestos, were disposed of prior to being inspected, so there may be asbestos present in the soil, in the rubble, and in the building materials themselves. If this is confirmed, then a report must be submitted to the CBD. However, if the inspector believes that the condition is unlikely to occur due to exceptional measures taken to prevent it occurring, then the document should be deleted, along with the rest of the report, and any evidence regarding the inspection.

Unfortunately, because the CBD is based on evidence from the surface of the building and not on information obtained from the interior or underside of the building, the scope of the report is usually limited to the extent of the visual damage and what can be visually seen. It is not considered necessary to include a detailed description of the conditions in which asbestos was found. The word condition has a definite legal meaning in New Zealand, and a certificate of asbestos testing must be signed by an authorized officer. In the absence of such an authorization, the individual should consider having the asbestos testing performed by someone who is qualified to do so.

If the report states that the condition did not cause injury, then the contractor is not required to perform asbestos testing. (Some states do require an asbestos inspection as part of the routine building maintenance, but New Zealand legislation does not require it. Therefore, contractors are not obligated to perform the test.) As a contractor, you have the right to request that the condition be addressed, without having to undergo an asbestos testing. But, it’s important to remember that your rights are more important than the rights of someone else. So, make sure that you don’t allow somebody to sidestep your rights just so you can claim protection from an asbestos lawsuit.

As a building contractor, if you know that asbestos is present in a certain condition, you should take action before the condition deteriorates further. And as a responsible building owner, you must have your home inspected for any condition that exposes your inhabitants to asbestos, whether or not the asbestos is detected at the time of the inspection. This applies whether the asbestos is in a visible place or not.

A typical scenario is a builder who is building a home in Pukekohe and notices that the roof has some damaged tiles. He does not have prior experience with asbestos removal, so he complies with the law by completing a report on the condition to his insurer. Unfortunately, some time later he becomes aware of another asbestos issue in the home and again he fails to have the material tested or has the roof repaired. After a short while, a member of the home’s foundation collapses, sending the rest of the house tumbling.

When this happens, the owner decides to have the building inspected for asbestos. It is discovered that the home was constructed with asbestos shingles. Although there are no records of prior asbestos testing, the inspector does find out that the asbestos had been installed more than 20 years ago. Fortunately, when this happened, the builders are legally required to have asbestos testing performed on their home.

Another scenario plays out frequently: home owners move into a new home. Before moving in, they often engage in asbestos inspections of their old home. If any asbestos remains, it is then moved to a dump located on the property. Once the home owners move away, the asbestos naturally breaks down. Some may never know that asbestos was present in their home.

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