Yes, most of the time they do, at least in many parts of the country. A recent investigation by the Des Moines Register found that in Iowa, there were only two inspectors to handle the 4,500 asbestos abatement projects throughout the state.
The two inspectors enforce different asbestos regulations, one handles EPA enforcement and the other OSHA regulations. If it were possible to equally divide their time across all of those projects, they would have about 25 minutes per inspection.
Sadly, this is not unusual across the U.S., as governmental agencies are squeezed to cover more areas and subjected to budget cuts and staff reductions. One commenter described enforcement of asbestos regulations as “abysmal.”
You can create the finest regulations that provide an adequate level of safety for workers performing asbestos abatement and for those who live or work near an asbestos abatement project, and they are all worthless if there is no enforcement.
Many contractors recognize this and ignore asbestos abatement regulations as a regular part of their business model. They often work on weekends or at night, as one case from the Register story of a building engineer who was hired by an illegal contractor to work on weekends, ripping out asbestos and tossing it in a dumpster.
That incident was discovered by an anonymous complaint. The problem is even with complaints being phoned in, the inspectors may receive as many as 10 in a day. If they are at different ends of the state, it is means some will have to go uninspected.
Asbestos problems are often seen as low priority, because no one dies immediately of exposure. A temporary worker, hired for a few weeks to work on an asbestos abatement project may not develop symptoms of asbestosis or mesothelioma for decades, and he may never know where he inhaled the deadly asbestos fibers.
One thing is certain; he will not feel very lucky.
Source: Desmoinesregister.com, “Register Investigation: Iowa’s asbestos inspectors overloaded,” Jason Clayworth, March 1, 2014