You may have the vague idea that asbestos is bad. That’s not strictly true. On its upside, asbestos is fireproof and heatproof. Its insulating properties are what made it so popular, and it was widely used in buildings constructed between the 1950s and 2000. Over time though, asbestos was found to have certain side effects. That said, these downsides only occur in specific settings.
For example, asbestos was originally woven into cloth or mixed into cement powder. It was also used in household items and appliances like boilers, hair dryers, iron boxes, and even ironing boards. In cars, you could find asbestos in clutch pads and brake lining. Asbestos is fine, as long it’s intact. But within 15 to 50 years, it starts to break apart.
When the asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) disintegrate, minute asbestos fibres are released. They waft through the air, getting into exposed skin or air passages, triggering certain ailments and infections. At this point, it’s best to get rid of the asbestos itself, as well as the base material it’s leaching out of. And the first step is a survey, to see how much asbestos there is.
Professional asbestos inspectors
To become an asbestos surveyor, you have to be licensed by the HSE – Health and Safety Executive. This licensing body trains assessors on how to effectively detect asbestos, manage it cost-effectively, and extract it safely. In addition to HSE licenses, good asbestos surveyors should be registered by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service – UKAS.
Before you hire anyone to check your asbestos situation, confirm their credentials with these two bodies. It’s possible for a roof plumber to be skilled at asbestos identification, even if they don’t have this formal licensing. But using someone with valid documents offers added protection in case anything goes wrong. For instance, say your inspector is injured on the job.
When they go to hospital for treatment, showing clear signs of asbestos-related ailments, the doctors and insurance company will want to know how, where, and why they got exposed. If they have the right papers, insurance will sort it out. If not, insurance companies may use non-sanctioned ‘high risk activity’ as a loophole, then you – the customer – will be stuck with the bill.
Beyond that, asbestos training is one of the services offered by valid asbestos management companies. If they don’t have the right documentation, the training you receive from them might be rated as moot, and that could get you into your own non-compliant hot soup. Mind you, these issues only ever come up when something goes wrong …
Ask your contractor
You might not know your house has asbestos. But if you’re doing any refurbishing or remodelling, the house innards will definitely be exposed, and you’ll have plumbers, masons, and construction crews poking around everywhere, so asbestos may come up. Contractors aren’t generally asbestos specialists, so they’ll have to outsource the task.
Verify the company they’re using for their asbestos assessment. Don’t just take their word for it. Ask questions, and get a clear quotation stating exactly what they’re doing. It’s easy for a sneaky contractor to scratch that spot under his hard hat and say, ‘Yep, there’s asbestos here,’ but he probably doesn’t have the expertise, so find out which surveyor he intends to sub-contract.
Also, asbestos should be mentioned during their initial project assessment. A contractor who suddenly pulls out the ‘a-word’ mid-project is ether (a) too incompetent to have spotted it earlier or (b) looking to hike his contractor’s fee. So if you know your building was constructed before the year 2000, be aware that asbestos is a potential issue, and prompt your contractor to check.
Checking in this case means linking you up with an asbestos removal company, preferably one with contacts you can cross-check. Because as much as your renovators may trust them, you want to verify their credentials yourself. Ask about former clients, and talk to the surveyors at length. Get a feel of who they are. For example, are they open to questions?
How to spot a good surveyor
Questions are good, but as a layman, yours may feel ignorant. If your surveyor is dismissive or superior, they’re likely to gloss over your queries. Unfortunately, someone with that attitude may overlook key concerns. Worse, their attitude may mask incompetence. You want an asbestos surveyor that’s patient and willing to walk you through even your ‘dumbest’ questions.
This is key, because asbestos surveys rarely result in immediate extraction. Instead, you’ll receive an asbestos management plan. You’ll have to follow the steps recommended in that plan, which include periodic re-inspection. So a surveyor who’s not willing to quell basic curiosity is unlikely to engage you. They won’t take the time to help you comprehend their report.
Another factor is the type of survey you require. This could leave you in a vicious cycle, because your asbestos management company should recommend the type of survey you need … but they also have to provide someone skilled in that type of survey. Management surveys – for instance – are largely visual, but they use tailored gadgets to test the air and soil.
Refurb/demolition surveys – on the other hand – are more … hands-on … and more focused on location than condition. So a Type 2 surveyor might be good at reading those assessment sheets and interpreting their results. Meanwhile, a Type 3 surveyor may be better skilled at detecting hidden asbestos spots and pulling apart the coating materials that shield said asbestos.
So as you’re looking for a professional roof plumber with asbestos training, ensure their company is licensed by the HSE and accredited by UKAS. Get testimonials from former customers, asking about factors like their bedside manner and their reputation for record-keeping. You can also check if they’ve won any industry awards. It shows trust from their peers.
Finally, how far they are from your site? They might charge for mileage. For licensed asbestos surveyors with pocket-friendly rates, ring ACS today.