Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibre, has been used extensively throughout the construction industry for many years and can be found in a great deal of buildings. Unfortunately, it has now been recognised that asbestos poses major health risks when disturbed and inhaled. In a nut shell, an asbestos survey identifies where asbestos can be found within a building and documents the condition of the asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Installation, maintenance, refurbishment and demolition works all risk disturbing asbestos. Therefore, those undertaking this work should be made aware of the building's asbestos survey in order to put in place necessary safeguards.
Completing thorough and regular asbestos surveys is a legal requirement, as set out in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The regulations outline several duties in managing asbestos; these are listed below.
- Identifying a duty holder.
- Deciding whether asbestos is likely to be found in the building.
- Finding out whether an asbestos survey has already been completed for the building and accessing it if so.
- Identifying where asbestos can be found.
- Keeping detailed and accessible records.
- Acting on this information accordingly to safely manage asbestos.
- Informing others of the presence of asbestos.
- Regularly updating and reviewing the process.
What Information Should an Asbestos Survey Contain?
Fundamentally, an asbestos survey should state whether asbestos is present and where it can be located if so. In most cases, an asbestos survey will need to be carried out by a specialist. The survey should report on where the asbestos containing materials (ACMs) are, what condition they are in and whose responsibility it is to manage them. Information from the asbestos survey should be entered into an asbestos register, making it readily accessible to those who require the information. Additionally, the survey should help in developing an asbestos management plan (AMP).
Types of Asbestos Survey
There are two different types of asbestos survey: a management survey and a refurbishment and demolition survey. A management survey is required in the day to day running of a building. It identifies ACMs that might be disturbed in normal daily activities, e.g. installation of new equipment. This type of survey can either be carried out by the duty holder (if competent) or by a surveyor. Contrastingly, a refurbishment and demolition survey must be completed when all or part of the building is being refurbished or demolished. Due to the nature of work, all ACMs must be located as they are all at risk of being disturbed. This is done through a destructive inspection, carried out in a vacated building. It is rare for a duty holder to carry out this type of survey themselves.
Benefits of Undertaking an Asbestos Survey
Completing asbestos surveys comprises a vital part of health and safety protection within a building. It is important to highlight that undertaking asbestos surveys is not a choice, it is a legal requirement. Failure to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 may result in punishment by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). As touched on earlier, asbestos can cause serious harm when inhaled. Asbestos exposure has been linked with the development of lung cancer, pleural disease, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Provision of asbestos training can help raise awareness of the risks that asbestos poses and how these can best be avoided.