The Hazmat Survey Process

collecting a survey sample

Certified Asbestos Building Inspector collecting samples from building materials.

Definition: A hazardous materials survey (hazmat survey) also referred to as an asbestos inspection, assessment, or report is a survey that identifies the presence of hazardous materials in a building. The survey is intended to identify ALL materials that could be harmful if they are not removed prior to a renovation or demolition.

Step 1 Conduct a hazardous building material survey to collect samples for analysis of suspect hazardous materials for the purpose of identifying hazardous materials at the property in accordance with WorkSafeBC regulations and provide an inventory at the completion of the survey.

asbestos-plansThe hazardous materials commonly included in a survey are asbestos, lead, mold, mercury, PCB’s, silica, arsenic, ozone depleting substances, rodent/bird droppings, radioactive materials, and any other materials that are flammable or toxic. Any materials that are suspected of containing asbestos or lead are analyzed by an accredited lab to determine if asbestos or lead is present. The survey report must be posted on the job site where removal is to occur and the prime contractor or owner must file a Notice of Project with WorkSafeBC 24 hours before removal work begins.

WorkSafeBC requires that structures built before 1990 include asbestos as part of the Hazmat Survey conducted prior to any renovation, demolition or repair. The HAZMAT Survey is also valuable as a pre-purchase report for home and building buyers to fully understand the potential scope(and cost) of remediation that a building or home may require.

Representative Sampling to be completed; ensure accurate extrapolation to other areas of the building. Although this is a non-destructive survey, samples must include all common areas where multiple layers regularly occur (i.e. flooring, drywall, etc.).


Asbestos and lead paint samples analysed by an accredited lab

Ten Steps to Compliance with asbestos abatement requirements for a pre-1990 house/building demolition, renovation, or salvage work.

  1. Where a pre-1990 house/building is to be demolished or renovated.
  2. The building owner (or prime contractor) or the employer (e.g., builder, demolition contractor) retains a consultant to perform a risk assessment and asbestos survey before conducting work where asbestos may be disturbed.
  3. The consultant inspects the house/building, collects representative bulk samples, and has the samples analyzed by a qualified laboratory.
  4. The consultant prepares a report that identifies all inspection results (including drawings, plans, or specifications), risk assessment, and scope of work for the abatement of the asbestos.
  5. The report containing the inspection results is provided to the owner/employer. The inspection report must be available at the worksite whenever workers are on-site.
  6. The owner or employer retains trained asbestos abatement workers; An NOP with written work procedures is submitted to WorkSafeBC before commencement of asbestos removal work.
  7. Safe removal and disposal of identified asbestos occurs.
  8. After the asbestos has been removed, the owner or employer receives written confirmation that the asbestos specified for removal on the NOP (Notice of Project) has been removed. A copy of the inspection report is on site.
  9. The owner authorizes demolition, renovation, or salvage of the house/building to proceed. The contractor proceeds with the work following safe work procedures. Copy of inspection and post-abatement reports are on-site.
  10. This is critically important: If any asbestos is found during demolition, renovation, or salvage, all work is to cease until a risk assessment is done and the asbestos is safely contained or removed. In this case, go back to step 7.



A hazardous materials survey (hazmat survey) is a survey that determines the presence of hazardous materials in a building. This type of survey is required for all buildings that were built before 1990 that are expected to be renovated or demolished and can also be beneficial when buying or selling a home.

The survey must occur before the renovation or demolition plans begin. The survey is meant to identify ALL materials that could be harmful if they are not removed prior to the reno/demo. The hazardous materials commonly included in a survey are asbestos, lead, mercury, PCB’s, mold, silica, arsenic, ozone depleting substances, rodent/bird droppings, radioactive materials, and any other materials that are flammable or toxic. Samples of materials suspect to contain asbestos and lead are taken and analyzed by a lab to determine if asbestos or lead is present.

Why is a Hazmat Survey required?

A Hazmat Survey is required by WorkSafeBC regulations in order to keep all workers safe. Before employing any workers to do renovation work, a hazmat survey must be completed. A Hazmat Survey is also required by many municipalities before they will issue building permits for renovation projects or demolition permits. Hazmat surveys ensure that no workers or building occupants are exposed to hazardous materials.

The Process

If you have decided that you want to do a renovation or demolition project, the following process should occur:

Ensure that you are aware of the scope of your project to guarantee that all areas expected to be impacted can be surveyed appropriately.
Find a qualified professional to complete the survey. This qualified professional should be an AHERA Certified Building Inspector or a Certified Hygienist. Other important questions to ask are:

  • Will the report provided be able to satisfy WorkSafeBC and Municipal Requirements?
  • Do you have Errors & Omissions Insurance? This is important in case any mistakes are made in the report.
  • What method is used for sample analysis? Samples should be analyzed using the EPA 600/R-93/116
  • (July 1993) method. Note that due to new WorksafeBC regulations in Feb 2015, zonolite vermiculite insulation is assumed to be asbestos containing without being analyzed by a lab.

How is the cost of the survey determined? The buildup of costs for the hazmat survey should be easy to understand. Most companies charge a minimum fee that covers the site visit and the report time and then each sample that needs to be analyzed is an additional fee. This means the final cost is determined by the number of samples taken.
Schedule an appointment for the survey to be conducted. Depending on the size of the building and the number of samples required, the survey could take anywhere between 30 minutes to more than 2 hours. During the survey, the surveyor will require access to all areas expected to be impacted by the reno/demo. Ensure that you schedule the appointment for a time that full access is possible.
Once onsite, explain the scope of work to the surveyor. The surveyor should be knowledgeable on the number of samples required for each type of material that is expected to be impacted by the reno/demo.
The surveyor should be prepared with proper PPE (personal protective equipment). They should be equipped with an impermeable suit, respirator, hand tools, and a spray bottle. Samples should never be taken using power tools. Before any sample is taken, the area should be wet down to prevent fiber release in the case that asbestos is present. When the samples are being taken, stand a minimum of 10 feet away from the surveyor.
Once the survey is complete, the surveyor will submit all samples for analysis. The results of the survey and analysis will be compiled into a report. Normally this process takes 3-4 business days. Ensure that the report includes the bulk sample results that came directly from the lab.
If hazardous materials are found, they will be included in the report along with a risk assessment stating how the materials should be handled according to the reno/demo plans. Some surveyors are able to provide a quote for the removal of the hazardous materials along with the hazmat report. Get a few quotes to ensure you are getting the best for your money.
All hazardous materials should be handled as described in the report to ensure the safety of all workers and building occupants.