Condo Owners vs Designated Substances & Hazardous Materials – What Are Your Responsibilities?

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Blog Aug 5
Do you own/manage a building in Ontario?

Was that building built using Designated Substances and/or Hazardous Materials (DSHM)? How can you tell? What’s required of you regarding the management of DSHM? How do you ensure that the health and safety of workers and building occupants is protected? How do you remain lawfully compliant?

First, let’s start with understanding some key definitions:

To be classified as “Designated” in Ontario, a substance is acutely toxic (toxic in small doses) or highly carcinogenic (proven to cause cancer).

There are eleven “Designated Substances” regulated in Ontario, four of which are often present in multi-residential buildings:
1. Asbestos,
2. Lead,
3. Mercury, and
4. Silica.

There are numerous other substances which may not be “Designated” but are nonetheless still considered to pose health hazards. “Hazardous Materials” include, but are not limited to:
1. Mould, and
2. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s).

Second, let’s explore how Designated Substances & Hazardous Materials (DSHM) are regulated and managed in Ontario:

The regulations and industry guidelines surrounding DSHM often dictate how the materials are to be managed, maintained, repaired and removed, with specific and often stringent procedures designed to protect workers, building occupants, staff and the public from unsafe exposure to DSHM.

Proper management of DSHM…

…is vital for ensuring your day-to-day maintenance activities is completed such that staff, contractor, and tenant health & safety is protected,

…will help your staff and tenants respond appropriately to accidental disturbance and emergencies,

…is vital for reducing very real liability for your company and for yourself,

…is vital for ensuring your construction projects are completed within budget and on time, and

… is a requirement under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Canada Labour Code, and Ontario Regulation 490/09 – Designated Substances; Ontario Regulation 278/05 – Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations; and Ontario Regulation 347 – General – Waste Management, as amended.

It goes without saying that identifying DSHM in your building or construction work area and making sure they are managed properly… is very important!

Third, we need to understand what actions might need to be taken, and when:


Asbestos is a Designated Substance, but it’s regulated a little bit differently than the others. Every building in Ontario needs to have a separate Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM) Survey for the building completed by a competent person (e.g. an Environmental Consultant). There is no exception for building age. The ACM Survey includes visual inspections and sample collection. The ACM Survey provides the building owner with knowledge of asbestos-containing materials for the purposes of managing day-to-day activities in the building. ACM Surveys are not to be solely relied on for construction projects.

The Environmental Consultant conducting the ACM Survey will provide a formal report for your records, summarizing the findings and results of the survey, and providing professional recommendations regarding any potential next steps.

If asbestos is identified during the ACM Survey…

…an Asbestos Management Program (AMP) must be implemented for the building and updated at least once every five years,

…any asbestos-containing materials observed in poor condition must be addressed in a timely manner, and

…all asbestos-containing materials identified must be visually inspected at least once annually.

Designated Substances & Hazardous Materials

Prior to tendering a construction or demolition project, the owner of the project must produce a list of the Designated Substances that are present in the specific project area. This list is to be compiled by a Competent Person (e.g. an Environmental Consultant) via a Designated Substances Survey (DSS). There is no exception for building age. The DSS includes visual inspection and sample collection within the specific project area as it pertains to the construction or demolition scope of work. Each DSS is unique to the project at hand.

The Environmental Consultant will provide a formal DSS report for your records, summarizing the findings and results of the survey, and providing professional recommendations regarding any next steps.

If any Designated Substances are identified during the survey…

…they must be addressed such that the health and safety of project workers, staff and residents are protected in accordance with applicable laws and industry guidelines.

Whether or not Designated Substances are identified during the survey…

…the DSS must be provided to bidding contractors prior to project tender.

Do you know which DSHM are present within your buildings or project area?

What steps are taking to ensure DSHM present on your site are properly identified, communicated, and managed?

Blog Aug 5 Author

Sarah Kruis, B.Sc. (Env)

Project Manager, Hazardous Materials. EXP Services Inc.


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