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Survey reports: NORAC technical guidance

In our final of three blogs looking closely at the technical guidance from The National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants (NORAC), we look at the third guidance document – on survey reports.

 This guidance provides model types of reports, and differs from the other guidance in that it explicitly outlines detail that is commonly missing from reports. Most prominent amongst this information is building descriptions, but also lack of clarity and precision in any of the important details.

 It defines a good survey as having the following characteristics:

  • Fit for purpose.
  • Effectively planned, as per Section 4 of HSG264.
  • Contracted effectively (our words, not theirs) – i.e. an agreement on what will be delivered, why, how, when, and how much it will cost.
  • Accompanied by a survey report.
  • The report is structured around HSG264.
  • The report should include the results of any material analysis (lab work), and conclusions, and actions.
  • Where ACMs are found, the report includes a Priority Risk Assessment (as per HSG227) – along with a statement that the client has a duty to review the scores given.

A number of issues in the industry are defined by the guidance. We believe that these have the potential, if not addressed, to harm the industry. But they can be avoided by choosing a qualified and caring supplier, and entering clearly and openly into a contract.

 The first issue is that of a surveyor simply ‘turning up’ to a job, uninformed with what they should know in advance. Clearly both parties (client and supplier) have a responsibility here, but as a professional, the surveyor should be driving the conversation about what they need. As with all professions, we can’t expect the client to have our expertise.

 So, better planning delivers a fit for purpose survey, and the opportunity to really tailor the report to the client’s needs.

 The next problem that NORAC identifies seems a major one: ‘Poor report templates or poor transposition of survey data, further compounded by poor final review.’

 This has the potential to completely invalidate the process.

 In our case, we have invested in survey tools that allow rapid and consistent processing of data collected on-site, into a useful format, for our interpretation. It means that our clients get the right information, in the right level of detail, but in a user-friendly format. Then, through our interpretation, it’s our job to ensure client understanding. Safety and compliance are dependent upon this.

 NORAC, rightly in our view, sees the report as a way to demonstrate professionalism, (‘shine’, as they put it), and deliver clear value to the client. One way to do this is to outline specifically what was not done, as well as what was done. There will for example, almost always be part of a building not surveyed, either because it wasn’t necessary, or it wasn’t accessible. We should go as far as encouraging clients to check that we did as we said we would.

 The purpose of survey reports is to provide peace of mind, compliance, and notification of specific actions; sometimes urgent. Generic text therefore does not aid any of these things. Providing specific written information, and verbal guidance to reassure as necessary, makes for a much more valuable service.

 Details that you can expect in a good report include:

  • Specifics of the location – building age, type, size, and use.
  • Context, e.g. if it’s a refurbishment survey, the specific work that is planned, and how the survey addresses the resulting needs.
  • Details of the actual materials inspected in each room – to give confidence that it has been inspected, and if ‘no ACM’, then the client need not be concerned about that material in that place.

Another concerning issue reported by NORAC is that of business process. Specifically, a lead surveyor relying on others to do the majority of the report, or not taking responsibility for authorising the finished report. This does not provide value, or assurance to a client.

 In summary, consistency of style and detail benefits all, improves the standing of our industry, and supports effective re-inspection.

 Helpfully, NORAC acknowledges the need for ‘fair price for a sustainable business’ i.e. a survey and report, and management information, including updates to the asbestos register, will need to be paid for at a rate that allows such a provider to continue in business.

 

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