Asbestos was regarded as the wonder building material additive and as such was extensively used in construction in the early 1900s. Using asbestos in building materials resulted in strong, long lasting and cost-effective materials. It also has excellent sound and heat insulation and has fantastic fire resistance properties, which made it perfect for construction. Throughout the decades from 1950 to 1980, it was extensively used in building materials. Asbestos in building materials was only completely banned from use in the UK in 1999. A building erected before 1999 is therefore likely to have some form of asbestos-containing materials. These can be found in cement, floor, roof and ceiling tiles, insulation, fire doors, down pipes, cladding, partitions and toilet seats and cisterns to name but a few. In fact, there are many areas within a building that are likely to contain asbestos.
Is an asbestos survey necessary?
Asbestos can pose a huge health risk if it is old or damaged. Microscopic fibres can become airborne and inhaled by unsuspecting workers or occupants of the building. While tiny, the fibres are strong and sharp and can become embedded in the soft tissue of the lungs, stomach and mucous membranes. These can lead to fatal diseases such as Asbestosis, lung cancer and Mesothelioma. The symptoms of these diseases aren’t immediately apparent and take decades to develop. Unfortunately, there is no cure for any of these diseases.
As it can be difficult to determine whether asbestos is actually present in your building, you have a duty of care to manage any asbestos that may be present; it is, therefore, a legal requirement that in any non-residential property it is surveyed for the presence of asbestos containing materials but suitably qualified and experienced personnel. There are a number of types of asbestos surveys available, and ACS will advise you on the best type of survey you require for your building.
Types of asbestos surveys
Asbestos is one of the largest causes of death within and caused by the workplace in the UK. It has been found that each week, nearly 40 tradesmen die from this ‘hidden killer’. It has also been noted that the number of people who die every year, as a result of past asbestos exposure, is high. Statistics show that up to 5000 deaths have been reported. Many more people are diagnosed with fatal asbestos diseases. Asbestos surveys are now required by law.
Management Asbestos Survey
The first type of asbestos survey, and it is also the simplest type of survey, is the management survey. It comprises of a visual inspection of the building. This is done to note the condition and quantify any asbestos-containing materials, as well as any risk they might pose during normal occupancy of the building. The management survey usually involves the sampling of the suspect material and is generally non-intrusive.
Any building, especially a non-domestic building that was constructed and erected prior to 2000, is required to have a management survey carried out. The owner, or the manager of the building, is regarded as the duty holder. The duty holder has the responsibility/duty to manage any asbestos materials according to the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012). The management survey forms a part of this duty as it is the survey that identified the asbestos containing materials.
A management survey is not usually required for any domestic buildings but is a legal requirement for any non-domestic building. However, in a domestic building such as a block of flats, the shared areas of the building like the foyers, corridors, and stairwells (communal areas), deem this type of survey necessary. The management survey will provide the information necessary to manage and monitor any asbestos containing materials. This also includes creating an asbestos register, as well as an asbestos management plan.
If the asbestos containing materials remain in good repair, are not disturbed or damaged, and do not pose a threat during normal occupancy, they will not harm the occupants of the building. A management survey is not suitable, however, if you are planning on the demolition of, or refurbishing your building.
The aims of a management survey are:
- that nobody will be in danger from the presence of asbestos-containing material in the building
- that the asbestos-containing materials stay in a good condition
- that nobody disturbs it accidentally
Refurbishment and Demolition Asbestos Survey
This type of asbestos survey is legally required to be undertaken prior to any construction, demolition or refurbishment works being carried out. As, once the asbestos containing materials are disturbed and their fibres are released, they can be inhaled by those in the vicinity. A refurbishment and demolition survey is required when materials will be disturbed as a result of a demolition or renovation project, or other types of construction work. This particular type of survey is fully intrusive and damage will be caused. As extensive samples will need to be taken during this survey, the building needs to be vacant during this time. If any building work is going to happen in only part of the building, only that part of the building will need to be intrusively surveyed. The surveyor will take samples of any suspected asbestos containing materials to be tested in a UKAS accredited laboratory. The results of this testing will inform the contractors, as well as the manager of the building, what the extent of the asbestos is so they can plan and follow the right precautions. If any of the identified materials are to be affected by the planned works, then they will need to be removed prior to the works commencing.
As there are some types of asbestos that are licensed, only licensed contractors work with the material. The licensed contractor will inform the HSE. After which he will remove the asbestos-containing materials under fully controlled conditions.
The benefit of this asbestos survey is that it will provide necessary information about the type of asbestos that has been identified. This then informs you as the duty holder on the type of arrangements to be made if it needs to be removed. The aim of a Refurbishment/demolition Survey is to ensure that:
- No-one visiting or working on the premises will be harmed by work on asbestos-containing materials
- The work will be done by a licenced contractor in the correct way
Before the finalisation of any building work plans and before any structural work begins, a refurbishment/demolition survey must be carried out to locate, identify and quantify all asbestos-containing materials. It does include destructive inspection and asbestos disturbance. The best way to ensure the safety of the occupants of your building is to trust in a highly regarded company that offers expert asbestos surveys.
If you need a professionally completed asbestos survey for your building, be sure to contact ACS for more information, or to schedule an appointment.