Asbestos-containing materials are present in a large majority of old buildings. This is despite the ban on its use in construction materials. In the past, asbestos was widely used as an additive to construction materials. It provided many advantages, namely strength, durability, resistance to heat, fire and chemicals. However, it was found that some asbestos, when aged or disturbed, becomes friable. This in turn releases microscopic asbestos fibres into the air. Those present in the vicinity are likely to inhale them. Inhalation of the asbestos fibres can cause disease and cancer.
What can be done?
It is required by law to have any asbestos survey conducted on a commercial building if it was built before 2000. An asbestos survey will indicate whether there are any asbestos-containing materials and their condition. Based on the survey, it may be necessary to have the suspected asbestos-containing materials tested to determine whether there is asbestos in the sample.
An asbestos survey is essential prior to the start of any work planned for the building. Any type of work may disturb the asbestos. This includes regular maintenance work done on the building.
Another instance when testing should take place is if you are planning work on a Brownfield site. A Brownfield site is an area of land that was previously developed. It may have been a commercial or domestic site. As such, it may be contaminated where the asbestos is buried under the ground.
Prior to any commencement of work on a Brownfield site, it is sensible to have a sample of the ground tested.
So what is asbestos testing?
This is the analysis of any suspect material to find out whether or not they contain asbestos. As asbestos was widely used, there are a number of typical materials that likely contain asbestos. These include cement, sprayed coatings, insulation boards and textured coatings.
Testing includes taking samples of the suspected asbestos-containing material and sending these to an accredited asbestos tester to for analysis of asbestos fibres. This needs to be sent to an independent UKAS laboratory.
The test results determine whether asbestos is present, and what type of asbestos it is. There are 3 main types of asbestos; Chrysotile, Crocidolite and Amosite.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. When left undisturbed, it can be harmless. However, the danger lies in when they are disturbed or damaged. Exposure through inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibres can result in disease and cancer such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Exposure, particularly prolonged exposure to asbestos can result in devastating illness. The symptoms may only manifest later in life, long after exposure.
First things first
Prior to sampling and testing of suspected asbestos-containing materials, an asbestos survey must be conducted. An asbestos survey will identify the location, extent and the condition of the asbestos. Based on the surveyor’s findings, it may be necessary for a sample to be sent to a laboratory for testing.
Two types of surveys
There are 2 types of asbestos surveys. The type of asbestos survey necessary for your commercial building will depend on your plans for the building. If it is to be used as a commercial enterprise on a daily basis, then a management survey will be suggested. However, if you are planning on renovating, refurbishing or demolishing your building, a refurb/demo survey is necessary.
A management survey is not intrusive. The main objective of a management survey is to identify the location of any asbestos-containing materials, the extent and the condition of said materials. This survey also identifies the suspected asbestos-containing materials that could be disturbed or damaged during normal occupancy. The findings in this survey can be the deciding factor on whether any sampling and resting is required.
The information garnered from this survey is helpful in creating the necessary management plan. Every person who either owns or manages an old building is known as the duty holder. As such, he is responsible for the management of any asbestos within the building. An asbestos management plan is one such way to ensure that the asbestos present in the building is correctly and safely managed. The management plan contains the necessary information on the amount, location and condition of any asbestos-containing materials. It includes details concerning ongoing and scheduled works that could disturb the asbestos-containing materials. In addition, it details a schedule of activities to monitor the condition of the asbestos-containing materials and instructions to people who might disturb the asbestos.
A refurb/demo survey is more intrusive than a management survey. This survey is essential before any construction work such as renovations take place on your building. It is also necessary before demolition of your building. The survey does not assess the condition of the asbestos, other than to note areas of damage or where additional asbestos debris can be found.
Rely on a professional
Asbestos surveys, sampling and testing should be completed by an experience, authorised company. An authorised company has the experts who have the right training and credentials to ensure that any asbestos-related work is safe and follows the correct procedure.
For any asbestos-related work including surveys, sampling and testing, ACS is available to provide assistance. As such, we assist businesses manage all aspects of their health & safety policy, with a specialisation in asbestos management.
You are more than welcome to give us a call for any asbestos-related concerns. We’re happy to assist. We can schedule an asbestos survey for the building on your property. Our surveyors have the experience, knowledge and the credentials to ensure a thorough and comprehensive survey. All the work we complete is in accordance to the guidelines set out by the HSE. In addition, our experts can remove any asbestos-containing samples for testing to determine whether there is any asbestos present.
On completion of the surveys and any required testing, we can assist with planning the best course of action for your business. You can rely on our experts to help to keep your building safe and remain in compliance with legislation.