Many older UW buildings are made of hazardous materials


Do-it-yourself repairs or projects that disturb walls, floor tiles, ceilings, fixtures and other building materials can expose you to substances that pose serious health risks.

University policy prohibits any “do-it-yourself” construction, renovation or modification of University buildings.  Even simple projects, such as hammering a nail into a wall, can expose you to hazardous chemicals and result in regulatory fines.

Building materials can contain a number of hazardous components that, if disturbed, can pose a health risk to workers and occupants. Hazards may exist in building materials such as walls, floors, ceilings, insulation, caulk, glazing, mastic, paint, light fixtures, fireproofing, equipment and other materials.

Asbestos and lead, for example, pose no health risk when left undisturbed and intact. However, during maintenance, renovation or demolition, materials that may pose health risks must be managed, abated and disposed of appropriately. Specific federal, state, and local health and safety regulations governing these materials apply to workers, including training, work practices, and disposal. 

hazmat protective equipment
Example of personal protective equipment

The hazards of regulated building materials were highlighted in recent incidents on the Seattle campus involving unauthorized demolitions that potentially exposed individuals to lead-containing paint. The lack of knowledge to follow abatement procedures and absence of protective equipment during demolition increases the risk for serious health consequences following exposure.

Reduce your risk of exposure by doing the following:

  • Do not conduct any self-directed alterations or renovations. 
  • Always request a “good faith” asbestos and other regulated building materials survey before any alterations or renovations to a building occur.
  • Contact the Facilities Services Regulated Materials Management Office at 206.685.3357 to report suspected damage to buildings.

Know the policies that govern construction, maintenance and repair to all UW buildings (new or old):

  • The University of Washington Administrative Policy Statement 56.6 (APS 56.6) states that construction, maintenance, and renovation of University facilities shall not be performed by non-facilities staff, students or volunteers. This applies to all persons and all facilities on the UW Seattle campus.
  • Departments that violate APS 56.6 and proceed to do their own work, whether with paid staff or volunteers or using an outside contractor, will be responsible for all costs associated with having work brought into compliance with University standards. Any fees, fines, or penalties which are assessed for violations of public codes and requirements are also the responsibility of the department.
  • Persons wishing to perform work on facilities at the UW Bothell and UW Tacoma campuses, and at the University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center, should consult the appropriate administrators at those locations. While specific procedures and resources vary at these locations, administrators are expected to ensure that the intent of APS 56.6 is met within their own facility alterations policies.
  • For work in leased facilities, see the UW Real Estate Office web page.

For specific guidelines and procedures regarding regulated building materials, contact EH&S at 206.543.7262 or

Additional resources

Complete the Asbestos Awareness online training that is required for all UW employees.

Review the Asbestos and Asbestos in Buildings focus sheets.

Review the Preventing Asbestos Exposure and Protecting Floor Tiles focus sheet.


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