How Are Asbestos Surveys Done?

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The Purposes of an Asbestos Survey

UK law requires an asbestos survey to be conducted due to the high risk that asbestos materials can present. Buildings may need one of the types of asbestos surveys or both; it depends on the use of the building and the type of work planned.

The most significant cause of work-related deaths in the UK is Asbestos. The casualties, for the most part, occur in the construction industry. On average, 40 tradesmen die from this 'hidden killer'. Around 5,000 people die annually in the UK due to asbestos exposure. Thousands of others are diagnosed with other asbestos-related fatal diseases.

The Types of Asbestos Surveys

Due to this, asbestos surveys are required by law. There are two asbestos surveys:

  1. Asbestos management surveys
  2. Refurbishment & Demolition Asbestos Survey

What is an Asbestos Management Survey?

Management Asbestos Surveys are the simplest type of survey. This kind of survey is to manage asbestos and bring attention to the building users where asbestos is most likely to be located to monitor its condition. If specific materials are deteriorating over time, action can be taken.

Management surveys are usually just a visual inspection to note the condition of the materials containing asbestos and assess any risk it may cause to the occupancy. Management surveys involve minor intrusive work and minimal sampling. Surveyors could also presume certain materials are asbestos-containing without taking any samples.

All non-domestic buildings that have been built before 2000 should have a management survey. The management of asbestos is down to anybody responsible for the maintenance or repair of the premises. Management asbestos surveys are part of that duty.

Management asbestos surveys are generally not required for domestic buildings; however, it is needed in shared areas like corridors, lobbies and foyers. For this reason, buildings with tenanted properties or public access will have a management survey in place. The survey provides essential information needed to monitor and manage asbestos-containing materials. This includes preparing an asbestos register and developing a plan to address the asbestos. So long as materials remain in good condition, they should not pose a threat to occupants, providing the asbestos is not disturbed.

This type of survey is not suitable for refurbishment work, construction or extensive maintenance work.

What Are Refurbishment and Demolition Asbestos Surveys?

Construction work is likely to disturb asbestos-containing materials. Once disturbed and the fibres are released, anyone nearby can inhale them. Asbestos fibres entering the lungs can put your health at risk leading to the potential development of fatal asbestos diseases.

Unfortunately, there is no way to know if you have inhaled asbestos unless you have identified the material containing asbestos. The effects of asbestos inhalation are not immediate; however, it will develop into a fatal disease and may kill you in 20 years. 

A refurbishment and demolition survey is necessary when there is a likelihood of materials being disturbed due to a demolition or refurbishment project or any other type of construction work.

Before starting any construction work, a refurbishment and demolition survey must be conducted in the planning phase. Maintenance, demolition, refurbishment, extensions, and other construction activities all come under construction work and require a survey to be conducted.

Refurbishment and demolition surveys, unlike management surveys, are far more extensive and detailed. The survey is fully intrusive, so the surveyed building or area must be vacated so the samples can be taken safely. The samples taken from the building are to find the location, type and extent of asbestos materials and the hidden materials in the structure of the building.

The survey should only cover the area that will be disturbed. Surveying the entire building is unnecessary if construction work is only happening in one or two rooms. Suspected materials collected are tested in a lab, and the results will allow the contractors to understand what they are dealing with, so they take the proper steps. 

Some asbestos materials are licensed, meaning licensed contractors are allowed to work on that material. Licensed contractors would contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and remove the asbestos in controlled conditions. Asbestos surveys will contain information on how to remove it if necessary.

All waste generated by asbestos is hazardous and requires diligent and careful removal and transfer to a licensed site.

Ultimately, our health is very important. We should not take asbestos lightly as it is a dangerous fibrous material. The name 'silent killer' was given to asbestos because it is virtually undetectable when inhaled. Whether a management asbestos survey or refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey is required, a survey must be carried out by a competent asbestos surveyor following the recommended guidance. It is an essential survey due to the adverse effects of not conducting one.