An asbestos survey is necessary for any commercial building that was erected before 2000. The reason for this is that asbestos, while widely used in the past, causes deadly disease and cancer.
As the manager or owner of a commercial building, it is your duty to manage any asbestos within the building. The HSE Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 insist that an asbestos management plan is put in place to help control the asbestos-containing materials within the building.
Why was asbestos used?
The use of asbestos was banned in the UK. The ban came into effect on the 4th August 1999. However, as a result of the widespread use of asbestos in the century prior to this, many, if not all buildings constructed preceding the ban still have asbestos-containing materials in them.
Asbestos was regarded as the building additive of choice for many reasons. It added durability and strength, and acted as a fire retardant. Additionally, it was resistant to electricity, water and chemicals. It provided excellent sound and heat insulation too. It is little wonder that it was added to building materials.
The hidden killer
The popularity of the use of asbestos grew and it can be found in many different parts of a building. From the ceiling, floor tiles, insulation to cisterns, electrical panels, fascias and soffits, drain pipes to toilet seats, asbestos is still highly prevalent in many buildings. It was then found that exposure to asbestos fibres led to incurable diseases.
Asbestos, when it is disturbed or damaged, releases its microscopic fibres into the air. The workers in the vicinity can, unsuspectingly, inhale these fibres. The fibres, while extremely small, can lodge in lining and tissue of the lungs. Once there, they cannot be removed. The result is terminal disease and cancer such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
The symptoms of the diseases take years to develop and a worker typically does not know that he has the disease until it is fully developed. Unfortunately, there is no cure.
If it is banned, why is there still asbestos present in the workplace?
As mentioned, the use of asbestos was finally banned in 1999. Yet, as a result of its previous popularity, it is still present in many, many buildings.
When any asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged, its fibres will become airborne. A worker in a building cannot tell if there are any asbestos materials present, and can unknowingly expose himself to the danger of asbestos.
If any type of renovation work takes place in a building, including something as small and innocuous as drilling a hole in the wall, it increases the risk of asbestos fibre exposure.
The best next step
If your building is an old building, steps must be put in place to ensure the safety of your workers. An asbestos survey is an essential first step. A survey will help locate any asbestos-containing materials in the building. It will also determine how much of it there is and what state it is in. It then provides the information to helps confirm whether to have it removed and safely disposed of.
An asbestos survey will also provide the needed information to prepare a proper management plan. The management plan indicates how the owner or manager plans to control the asbestos and lessen the risk of exposure to the workers in the building.
What is an asbestos survey, actually?
An asbestos survey is a survey that is done in a building to identify asbestos-containing materials. It establishes the amount of the asbestos-containing materials and what their condition is.
As asbestos is too small to be seen by the naked eye, samples are likely taken and tested. The samples are tested in an approved laboratory to identify if asbestos is present, and what type of asbestos it is.
An asbestos survey provides the following information:
- where it is
- what type it is
- Its condition
- how much of it there is
- further action needed if this is necessary
A large number of workplaces are housed in old buildings. Thus, they are likely to contain asbestos within the structure. An asbestos survey can identify these, and help create a plan of action.
There different types of surveys and these are dependent on the type of building, and whether any building work is planned on the building. The asbestos surveys include the management survey, and the more intensive refurb/demolition survey.
Both surveys are essential in locating any asbestos-containing materials. The HSE Control of Asbestos regulations 2012 state that the duty holder or the manager of the building is responsible for this information. The best way to get the information needed is by having a survey completed.
Types of asbestos surveys
- The management survey: this survey is a standard inspection to find, where it is plausibly practical, the amount and where any suspected asbestos-containing materials are located in a building. The intent is to find any asbestos-containing material that may be disturbed during normal occupancy of the building. The survey will assess the risk factor of the asbestos-containing materials.
- The refurb/demolition survey: it is required before any refurbishment or demolition of a building can begin. It will locate and describe any asbestos-containing material in the area that is work is planned.
Which is best for the workplace?
The occupants of a building, such as a workplace, whether it is a retail business, office space or workshop have the right to remain safe. An asbestos survey can help in this regard.
If the workplace is not likely to have any renovation or repair work during normal occupancy, the management survey is suitable.
On the other hand, if the building will have renovations, however minor, in the future, a refurb/demolition survey is necessary.
An asbestos survey is an excellent means of ensuring that a workplace is safe for the employees who perform their duties each day in the building.