Why do companies need asbestos surveys?

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Asbestos is the biggest cause of work-related fatalities in the UK and although it is no longer used as a building material, it still poses a real danger to tradesmen, construction and demolition workers. As such, there are strict rules detailing the steps that businesses and owners of commercial property must take to manage asbestos risks. 

Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, dutyholders have a responsibility to ascertain whether there is any asbestos in the premises and identify its location. If the building was constructed before 2000, dutyholders must assume it contains asbestos materials and make efforts to locate them.

They also have a duty to discover what condition the asbestos is in and assess the risk from it. Once that is done, a risk management plan must be drawn up and put into place.

Asbestos can be found in lagging, insulation board, tiles and roofing.

The simplest and most effective way to fulfil those duties is to organise for an asbestos survey to be undertaken by a specialist surveyor. While an asbestos survey is not a legal requirement, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states it is "good practice" to have one done and recommends that it is carried out by "competent surveyors who can clearly demonstrate they have the necessary skills, experience and qualifications".

While it is theoretically possible for dutyholders to identify asbestos and document its location in a building, in reality it is difficult to achieve. More than 300 building materials that were commonly used in the last century contain asbestos and the substance can be found in everything from insulating board and pipe lagging to doors, ceiling and floor tiles and roofing.

The process of identifying asbestos containing materials often requires samples to be taken and sent away for analysis. This task must be carried out by an accredited expert – and not only because the law says so. Doing it incorrectly can lead to the asbestos being damaged and people who work in the building being exposed to the fibres that cause mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Assessment of condition and risk is another task that requires a high degree of expertise, as the signs that it needs to be removed or repaired vary depending on the type of asbestos present. A trained surveyor will accurately identify whether the asbestos containing materials are safe, in need of repair or immediate removal, or are likely to be disturbed in the future.

Once the survey report is received, the information in it can be used to draw up an effective asbestos management plan that will help to keep staff and contractors safe. If the report concludes that some of the asbestos containing materials need to be removed or encapsulated, a contractor licensed by the HSE should be used to carry out the work and dispose of the waste.

For more information about asbestos surveys and licensed asbestos removal, please get in touch with BLS Asbestos.

Published: 3rd February 2014