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How do you know what kind of asbestos survey you need?

Asbestos containing materials labelled with a yellow label for safety following an asbestos survey.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 is the legislation that sets out what kind of asbestos survey you need in particular circumstances. It is important that if you ever need an asbestos survey, you get the right one. Having the wrong kind of asbestos survey can be as bad as not having one at all from a legal, compliance, and risk point of view. But, this does not have to be a challenge, since a conversation with a qualified, competent professional can set you on the right path.

What is the purpose of an asbestos survey?

To comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), you must make sure that the correct asbestos survey is carried out when needed. This will identify and manage the risk from any Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) that are present within a building. Therefore, if you own or manage buildings that were buillt before 2000, you need an asbestos survey.

When are asbestos surveys needed?

Asbestos Refurbishment and Demolition Surveys provide accurate information on the location, amount, and condition of asbestos-containing materials within a property and are a legal requirement before starting refurbishment or demolition works.

Asbestos Management Surveys are required for all non-domestic buildings built before 1999. If asbestos is found, then there will be a need for regular reinspections. Otherwise, they may be required following any changes to the building schematic (to bring the management survey and associated plan up to date) or when selling a property.

Choosing the right asbestos survey

One is required when works are being planned to upgrade, refurbish, or demolish a building or part of a building.

The other is required as part of the ongoing management of known asbestos.

Both of these are discussed further below.

Intrusive asbestos surveys

A Refurbishment / Demolition Survey aims to ensure that:

  • Nobody will be harmed by work on Asbestos Containing Materials in the premises or equipment.
  • Such work will be done by the right contractor in the right way.

The asbestos Refurbishment and Demolition Surveys are fully intrusive. They involve destructive inspection of the fabric of the building to locate and identify all ACMs before any structural work begins at a stated location or on stated equipment at the premises.

Does an asbestos survey make me compliant?

Following the survey, there may be additional duties that you are required to carry out in order to be compliant. If any risks are identified (i.e. any suspected ACMs), then, they will need to be sampled and analysed to identify exactly what they are.

If any asbestos is confirmed, then, an asbestos register must be created, a suitable risk assessment must be carried out, and a written plan must be made to manage the risks identified by those materials.

What happens if asbestos duties are not complied with?

Failing to comply with asbestos duties means that there is a real and imminent threat of people becoming exposed to asbestos. There are various forms of asbestos, all of which are hazardous. Naturally, then, prosecutions are likely in these cases.

Case 1

Newnham College, Cambridge was fined for failings that exposed employees and subcontractors to asbestos during the refurbishment of a flat owned by the college.

Failings identified by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation were:

  • No asbestos refurbishment survey was carried out before insulation debris was found (evidence of the removal of a wall or part of a wall).
  • There was inadequate planning and management of the refurbishment work.
  • One employee did not have asbestos awareness training.
  • One employee who contaminated his gloves and clothing with loose asbestos debris, spread asbestos from his clothing outside the flat.

On January 15, the College pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5 and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,450.

Speaking after the hearing, the HSE inspector said:

“Asbestos surveys need to be carried out prior to refurbishment works which disturbs the fabric of a building. Asbestos is still present in hidden locations in buildings and needs to be located before work starts that could potentially expose individuals.”

Case 2

Labform Ltd, a specialist laboratory design and installation company, was fined following the exposure to asbestos of workers, pupils, and teachers at a school.

Failings identified were.

  • No asbestos survey (either refurbishment or demolition survey) was undertaken.
  • Subcontractors disturbed asbestos as they were removing a wall and channelling the floor.
  • Workers, pupils, and teachers were exposed to asbestos.

The company was fined £22,400 plus £11,700 costs for four breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

An HSE inspector commented:

“Exposure to asbestos was a serious and well-known health risk, so it was essential that duty-holders took suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the disturbance, spread, and exposure to asbestos. Failing to take action to identify asbestos while planning work, and to ensure that any contractors who may disturb asbestos are aware of the location and type of asbestos present, and not taking appropriate measures to protect the health of others, is totally inexcusable.”

 

How big is the risk?

The two recent cases show that there are still instances of failures to carry out adequate asbestos refurbishment and asbestos demolition surveys when required. This is despite the education, training, and information that can be easily obtained.

In both of these cases, of course, the building contractors and subcontractors should have identified the lack of an asbestos survey and halted the work. But, that does not mitigate the failings of the Duty Holders i.e. the owners and managers of the buildings.

 

If you or someone you know are planning to undertake a refurbishment or demolition project, you can contact Environmental Inspection, experts in asbestos management.

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