Asbestos surveying – an overview

By now we all know the dangers of asbestos.  What once was thought to be a fabulous, naturally forming material that was perfect for insulation, was ultimately discovered to be fibrous, and those fibres to be carcinogenic.  So, if asbestos is suspected (of which more later), a survey must be made of the property in order to test all materials for the presence of asbestos.

The purpose of such a survey is, of course, to check for asbestos in the first instance.  The surveyor will subsequently test for the kind of asbestos present, as well as the location and quantity of the material.  The surveyor will further record the state of the material, surface condition and also its accessibility, in terms of further treatment.

These surveys can take various forms and it is the responsibility of both the building’s owner, as well as the surveyor, to be equally confident in the kind of survey required, where it is needed, and what results are desired.  There are two main survey types:

Refurbishment / Demolition Survey

The Refurbishment / Demolition Survey is the more extensive of the two.  A surveyor is required for these works, ensuring the testing will be done in the right way, by the right contractor.  It also ensures that no persons will be harmed by the work on the asbestos, whether in the premises or on any equipment.

The Refurbishment / Demolition Survey will firstly locate the asbestos before any works commence at a building, or on equipment within that building.  This survey does entail destructive inspection, and therefore the disturbance of asbestos and for this reason the site must be vacated ahead of the survey, and also declared fit for reoccupation, after the survey has been completed.

The survey won’t record the condition of the asbestos since it is likely that whatever the condition, the site will need refurbishment or complete demolition.

Management survey

The Management Survey (sometimes known as the Type 2 Survey) is slightly less intrusive, looking instead to manage the asbestos material during the standard occupation and use of the site.  The survey seeks instead to ensure that nobody disturbs the asbestos, it remains in good condition, and of course that no one is compromised by the presence of ACM.  As above, a surveyor can be contracted should the task be rather more complex than imagined, otherwise the building owner or duty-holder can make their own survey, themselves.

As compared to the Refurbishment / Demolition Survey, the Management Survey involves more minor intrusion, and modest disturbance of the asbestos; to firstly locate the material and then take a view on whether that asbestos might be disturbed by the normal running of the business.  The survey will reveal, for instance, whether disturbed asbestos will release those very dangerous fibres, allowing the duty-holder to make a decision on any further works to the site

These are the surveys, then, but as discussed, how will you know if you need to undertake one or other of these surveys?   Well there are simple requirements laid down in law by the Health and Safety Executive.  Firstly, if the site has already been shown to contain asbestos, you will need to conduct a fresh survey each year.  Secondly, will need a Refurbishment / Demolition Survey if the property was built before 2000, and you now want to conduct refurbishment or demolition work.  Finally you will need an Asbestos Management Survey if the property is non-domestic, and was built before the year 2000.