What is an Asbestos Survey?
An asbestos survey is undertaken to identify Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) within existing buildings. Asbestos is a dangerous material that, if inhaled, can cause health issues such as lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural diseases.
Asbestos exposure has resulted in thousands of deaths. In 2019 alone, there were 2,369 UK deaths caused by inhalation of asbestos fibre. Yet, despite the dangers asbestos poses, it has been used for more than 150 years in the construction industry.
Due to the harmful nature of asbestos, the UK government developed legislation to govern asbestos through the control of asbestos regulatiozns in 2012. The rules define the duty holder in charge of managing asbestos and the risks associated with exposure.
Under these regulations, a duty holder is considered to be:
- The building’s owner
- Person in control or in charge of the building
- Persons responsible for repair and maintenance of the building
As part of fulfilling the legal requirement, an asbestos survey is now a compulsory procedure during site investigations to ensure the site and building do not negatively affect tenants’ and workers’ health and safety. With a comprehensive asbestos survey, property developers can identify any asbestos present in existing buildings and implement corrective actions to protect the construction workers.
You might wonder why an asbestos survey is necessary even though the government banned asbestos use in the UK in 1999. The reason is that most building materials used in the past contained asbestos, so buildings constructed before 1999 would likely have traces of ACM’s. It is therefore always important to conduct an asbestos survey on buildings which were built before 1999.
What Are the Different Asbestos Survey Types?
The type of survey varies depending on the future use of the building. There are two types of asbestos surveys:
1 – Asbestos Management Survey
2 – Pre-refurbishment/pre-demolition asbestos survey (sometimes referred to as a refurbishment and demolition survey or R&D survey for short)
1 – Asbestos Management Surveys
If the future use of the building is for it to remain as-is and for occupants to use it then a management survey is required. This is a visual inspection during an ongoing occupation to identify asbestos-containing materials in a non-intrusive way. The main objective is to identify any asbestos and find a way to manage it before it affects the building’s occupants.
The surveyor assesses how Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) release fibres when disturbed during the asbestos inspection. Next, samples are collected and compiled into an asbestos register and taken to a lab for testing.
Once results are released, the asbestos consultant prepares a management plan and a remediation work strategy to manage or minimise the effects of the asbestos found in the building. The best practice is to review asbestos management annually or whenever intrusive refurbishments are done to the building which may agitate the asbestos and release airborne particles.
Common areas inspected during an asbestos management survey are:
- Inside risers
- service ducts
- Lift shafts
- Underground rooms
- Under crofts
- Ceiling voids or above false ceilings
This is not the survey you need if you want to do construction works on the site including demolition of an existing building or refurbishing it.
2 – Refurbishment and Demolition Asbestos Survey
A refurbishment and demolition survey happens when the building will either be demolished or refurbished. This survey needs to be done before any work begins in order to protect the health of the workers. It’s an intrusive process requiring the asbestos consultant to gain deep access and remove asbestos-containing materials in preparation for refurbishment or demolition works.
It is the duty holder’s job to discuss with an asbestos surveyor to identify treatment solutions before refurbishment starts.
A critical factor in a refurbishment/demolition survey is that an asbestos surveyor is present to ensure that:
- No harm or contamination occurs during the extraction of samples
- Extraction and containment of asbestos samples are conducted as per regulations
- The survey area is vacant to prevent inhalation of building materials
What Is Involved in an Asbestos Survey?
Asbestos consultants collect samples from the area to confirm if asbestos is present in a building. They then classify each of the areas of the building with the type of asbestos found and the quantity of asbestos. This is used to populate the asbestos register.
A typical asbestos survey must have the items below:
- The type of survey (either refurbishment surveys or management surveys)
- An asbestos register – defining the locations where ACM’s were identified and the type of ACM
- A risk assessment plan
- A management plan for managing the asbestos (Not required if the building will be demolished)
Next, depending on the type of survey you select, this is the information you’ll capture during the inspection:
- The type of asbestos
- The condition of the asbestos-containing materials
- The quantity per sample size
- The location of the contaminated materials
- Damage level to the site
- Any action required
Getting Started with Asbestos Surveys
Now that you know what an asbestos survey entails, the next step is to start the actual survey. The property developer should define what type of survey they need. They should then create a scope of service / brief for the asbestos surveyor. Once that is done they will need to create a shortlist of competent asbestos surveyors. Ideally you should ensure these surveyors each go through a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) prior to asking them to tender for the works.
The PQQ will cover items such as their financial standing, history in working on similar projects, it will ensure they have the right insurances and levels of cover required. It will also ensure they have the right training and certification in place to abide by the asbestos regulations and ensure that you are not liable for breach of these duties.
Once you are content with your suppliers, you can tender the work to them and await their tenders. These will then need to be reviewed and compared on a like for like basis to select your preferred supplier.
Streamline Your Asbestos Surveys with RenKap
At RenKap we pride ourselves in streamlining the time-consuming site investigation process for our clients. With us, just upload your site and we will take care of the rest.
If you would like to see how we have reduced our existing clients management time by over 90% then take a look at our video below.