How Do You Know if You Have Asbestos?

How Do You Know if You Have Asbestos?You’ve most likely heard that exposure to asbestos is highly dangerous. There has been extensive coverage regarding the risks involved. However, how do you know if your building has asbestos in it?  The first step is to determine the age of your building. If it was erected prior to 2000, it more than likely has asbestos-containing materials in its structure.

Asbestos was widely used in the construction industry as an additive to building materials. It provided many benefits as it as widely available and cheap. Asbestos, when used in building materials adds strength, and resistance to chemicals, heat and water. Moreover, it offers excellent sound and heat insulation as well as protection from fire. It is understandable why asbestos was considered as the perfect addition to building materials.

Why was it banned?

While it was great for the building industry, it was not for those who worked with it. As asbestos ages, it becomes friable. When it is disturbed or damaged, it releases microscopic fibres into the air. These fibres are so small they cannot be seen by the naked eye.

The danger lies in the damage the fibres cause when they are inhaled. They lodge in the lining of the lungs. Additionally, the human body cannot break them down. They cause permanent damage to the inner cells, as well as to the outer lining of the chest wall and lungs.

The use of blue and brown asbestos (crocidolite and amosite asbestos) was banned in the UK in 1985. These are commonly found in lagging, insulation boards and sprayed coatings.

How Do You Know if You Have Asbestos?The use of all asbestos, including white or crysotile asbestos, was finally banned in 1999. Chrysotile asbestos as the most widely used of the three, and is still found in common fixtures in a building such as roofing, floor tiles, and artex in cement. As such, many buildings today still have large amounts of asbestos in them.

Find out if there is asbestos in your building

The best way to find out whether your building has asbestos-containing materials is to have an asbestos survey conducted.  An asbestos survey is also required by law. In addition, it can be difficult to know where any asbestos is in the building. It may be hidden under or behind other materials. A surveyor has the experience regarding the possible location of any asbestos-containing material.

An asbestos survey is designed to locate the presence of any asbestos-containing materials in your building.  There are 2 types of asbestos surveys – the management survey and the refurbishment and demolition survey.  The type of asbestos survey you need depends on how you use your building, and whether there is any building work planned.

  1. Management survey

This survey is the simplest type of survey. The purpose of the management survey is the management of any asbestos in your building. It serves to indicate where asbestos is likely to be, and their condition.

The management survey is typically a visual inspection with minimal sampling and intrusive work. The survey notes the condition of any asbestos-containing materials and whether they pose any risk during normal occupancy of the building.

  1. Refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey

This is a more intensive survey. It is required before any building work or demolition of a building can take place. If you’re planning on upgrading your building, you will first need this type of survey.

The refurb/demo survey is essential because during construction, any asbestos-containing materials will be disturbed, causing their fibres to become airborne.

A detailed survey, it involves intrusive destruction. This is done to reach the areas here any suspected asbestos-containing material could be. Your building will need to be vacated during this survey to ensure the safety of the occupants.

A large number of samples of the building materials will be taken. This is to determine the type, location and extent of all asbestos materials.

My building has asbestos-containing materials – what do I do?

If the survey shows that are in fact asbestos-containing materials present, a management plan must be drawn up. It is an essential document; it is designed to take note of any asbestos that is present in the building. It also provides guidelines on how it will be managed and what steps will be taken to ensure the safety of the occupants of the building. The management plan also needs a schedule of activities to monitor the condition of the asbestos-containing materials.

All the details obtained as a result of the asbestos survey would be present in the management plan.

Asbestos surveys and the law

An asbestos survey for a non-domestic building is required by law. This is because of the continuing danger of exposure – often unknowingly – to asbestos fibres.

You will need an asbestos survey if:

  • You have a commercial or non-domestic building
  • If your building as constructed before 2000
  • If you are the duty holder of domestic buildings that have shared areas eg the foyer of a block of flats
  • If you are planning any construction work on your building, regardless of whether it is a commercial or domestic building
  • If you’re planning on demolishing your building

The person responsible for ensuring that an asbestos survey is carried out is called the duty holder. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states that the person responsible for the building is the duty holder and he or she must make arrangements to find out if there are any asbestos-containing materials in the building. The duty holder must also ensure that the management plan has all the required information and that it remains current.

Who to call?

To ensure that your building is safe, and that you are legally compliant, it is essential to use the surveyors of an authorised and experienced asbestos surveyor.  We can assist.

Our professional surveyors have many years of experience in conducting comprehensive asbestos surveys. Moreover, they have the expertise, skill and knowledge necessary.

We can also assist with the drafting of your management plan. For more details on how we can assist you with a safe and professional asbestos survey, call ACS today.

You can find out whether your building has asbestos-containing materials when you schedule a survey from our team.