21st October 2010
The Importance of the Asbestos Survey
In recent years the true danger of asbestos has come to light. Since the material was banned in 1999 a great deal of time and money has been spent on raising asbestos awareness and taking measures to ensure the safe handling and treatment of asbestos in both domestic and non-domestic properties. Although asbestos itself might not pose a danger in some cases: any environment in which asbestos fibres may become airborne presents a severe health risk.
In line with the strict stipulations set out by the Health and Safety Executive, it is absolutely imperative that duty holders take measures to establish whether Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) is present in non-domestic premises. In some cases it may be possible for the duty holder to perform an asbestos survey themselves; but in the majority of cases and particularly in buildings which were constructed or in which maintenance or refurbishment was undertaken between 1950 and 1999 – it is only by using a reputable professional that absolute compliance with HSE directives can be assured.
Consequentially, with the exception of premises constructed post 1999, an asbestos survey and the subsequent action in the event of finding asbestos is almost invariably best undertaken by an expert with accreditation and experience in the carrying out of an asbestos survey.
Performing an Asbestos Survey
The initial stage of an asbestos survey is a materials assessment. This assessment is performed to establish:
- Whether Asbestos Containing Material is present and if it is; the type, location and volume found.
- How accessible any present Asbestos Containing Material is, its condition and any evidence of surface treatment.
- The type of asbestos found – either by sampling or presuming.
In addition to the materials assessment, the surveyor is also tasked with confirming that:
- There is no risk that any individual will be harmed by the presence of Asbestos Containing Material in the premises or equipment.
- If Asbestos Containing Material is present that it remains in good condition.
- Any Asbestos Containing Material that may be present is not at risk of being accidentally disturbed.
If any of the above factors are not deemed to be the case then an asbestos management plan must be put in place which outlines how the asbestos is to be handled in order to ensure that premises is rendered safe to occupy.
As Asbestos Containing Material is only a serious hazard when there is a risk of exposure to asbestos fibres, or a risk that disturbance of Asbestos Containing Material will result in the release of asbestos fibres, it is not always best to remove it. In fact, an attempt by an unqualified individual to remove asbestos often results in the development of a considerably more hazardous environment than if the Asbestos Containing Material had been left as it was. A professional asbestos surveyor is able to asses if Asbestos Containing Material must be removed or whether it is 100% safe to leave in the premises.