Designated Substances Surveys: How They Work, And What They Mean For Your Property

roof core image

Working with the many materials that are involved in roofing and construction is a delicate art. Materials that make up the entirety of your roof work together to ensure the safety of your structure, but there are certain materials that require extra precautions. A Designated Substances Survey inspection is meant to protect workers and building occupants from exposure to problematic substances that could be detrimental to their health. So how do you know if this is necessary for your building? This week, we’ve partnered with Kevin Moore, manager of the Health, Safety & Compliance group at S2S Environmental Inc. to explain the key elements of the survey, and when you may need this kind of inspection.


What Is A Designated Substance Survey 

According to section 30 of the Occupational Health And Safety Act, project owners are required to identify and provide a list of designated substances to constructors during the tendering process. Designated substances are categorized as particularly hazardous substances that require special controls to protect the workers that come in contact with them. These substances can cause strong allergic reactions, liver and lung problems, cancers, as well as substantial effects on the nervous system. When a DSS survey is conducted, hazardous materials are identified which informs your contractor on the level of precautions necessary during the project.  According to Moore:

“The purpose of the DSS is to ensure that the constructor, contractors, and employers know what hazards are present and can take the necessary precautions to protect workers and building occupants or members of the public who are in close proximity to the project site.  The DSS should also be available at the project site and the constructor should sign off or confirm in writing with the owner to verify that they have received the DSS and reviewed it to avoid liability.”


What Materials Are Included And Where To Find Them 

Suspect materials can be found in really any location within the roofing structure. There are, however, some common areas where we have seen these issues crop up more often: 

  • Roofing shingles, tar, and felts (asbestos)
  • Asphalt roof membrane (asbestos)
  • Adhesives and caulking (asbestos)
  • Duct and pipe insulation (asbestos)
  • Vibration dampers and gaskets on roof-mounted HVAC units (asbestos)
  • Cement (Transite) pipes and panels (asbestos)
  • Paints on piping, flashing, etc. (lead)
  • Brick Mortar (lead/asbestos/silica)
  • Cement, mortar, brick, block (silica)


designated substance surveys
ACM tar on roofing unit

ACM Transite Panels and Tar under metal Flashing
ACM Transite Panels and Tar under metal Flashing

It is worth noting that even when designated substances are encountered during a project, they do not pose a significant risk (usually) if the area in question is not being disturbed. The health and safety risks in question happen most often with dust inhalation. Therefore, if the material is not being worked on specifically, it can remain in place safely. 


How A Designated Substances Survey Is Performed 

A DSS survey generally has five steps that should be completed: 

  1. A walk-through is conducted of the facility or project-specific area where work will occur. 
  2. Suspect materials are identified and sampled 
  3. Collection of samples is submitted for laboratory analysis
  4. Suspect materials are evaluated and given a classification
  5. A DSS report with procedure recommendations and procedures required is submitted to the building manager/owner. 


How Hazardous Materials Are Classified

There are generally three classifications by which hazardous material risks are graded: 


Type 1: Minimal Risk

Minimal protection is required for Type 1 classifications. No masks or respirators are required, but may be worn. Tyvek suits may be required, and specific precautions such as wetting down materials to prevent dust should be used. 


Type 2: Moderate Risk 

For Type two classifications, a wash station is required, with workers outfitted in half-face respirators and Tyvek suits. 


Type 3: High Risk 

High-risk structures require full-face respirators and a decontamination area that includes a shower space. Tyvek suits are mandatory, even in outdoor spaces. If the hazardous material in question is asbestos, specific worker training is required, as well as specialized waste disposal. 


Which Buildings Are At The Highest Risk 

If the building in question was built after the year 2000, it’s likely that hazardous materials were not used during the build. However, a visual inspection is still recommended, as there could be issues from transite drain pipes and wall panels. Buildings built after the year 1990 are generally safe from most materials that historically contained asbestos. Any structure built before the year 1990 should be thoroughly inspected prior to renovations of any kind. 


Working with roofing materials is serious business, especially in cases where older structures are being renovated. In order to ensure the safety of your workers, and of those who reside in your building, we always recommend a DSS survey to ensure that we are taking the necessary precautions. If you’d like to learn more about DSS surveys, or think your building is in need of an inspection, contact us here, or chat with us using the box on the right. At Elite, we want to ensure that all of our client’s projects go as smoothly and safely as possible while protecting your bottom line. That’s the Elite Advantage.