Involved in the building/construction industry, renovation or Strata management you must remember the importance of surveys as part of duty holders’, employers’ and clients’ legal responsibilities to manage the risks from asbestos.
Large amounts of asbestos-containing materials were used for a wide range of construction purposes in new and refurbished buildings until December 2003 when all use of asbestos was banned.
This extensive use means that there are still many buildings in Australia and New Zealand which contain asbestos.
Where asbestos materials are in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed they do not present a risk. However, where the materials are in poor condition or are disturbed or damaged, asbestos fibres may be released into the air. If these fibres are breathed in they can cause serious lung diseases, including cancers.
Workers who disturb the fabric of buildings during daily use, maintenance, refurbishment, repair, installation and related activities may be exposed to asbestos every time they unknowingly disturb or work on asbestos-containing materials without taking the correct precautions.
To prevent this exposure, information is needed on whether asbestos is, or is likely to be, present in the buildings, so that an assessment can be made about the risk it presents and appropriate measures put in place to manage those risks.
The person responsible for managing the maintenance and repair of a non-domestic building (also called a ‘duty holder’) must manage any asbestos in it. They can use other competent people to assist them in all or part of the work to comply with their legal duties but they cannot delegate their legal duty.
A thorough inspection of the premises will usually take the form of an asbestos survey.
The survey has to provide sufficient information for a risk assessment, asbestos register and management plan to be prepared. The asbestos register must be available to those who plan or initiate maintenance and related work, so it can be consulted before the work begins.
The survey is likely to involve sampling and analysis to confirm the presence or absence of asbestos containing materials.
The type of survey will vary during the lifespan of the premises and several may be needed over time.
Choosing the correct type of asbestos survey is critically important.
Asbestos surveys can be classified into two types:
- Management survey
- Refurbishment/demolition survey
A management survey which will be required during the normal occupation and use of the building to ensure continued management of the asbestos-containing materials in situ.
- A management survey aims to ensure that:
- nobody is harmed by the continuing presence of asbestos-containing materials in the premises or equipment
- that the asbestos-containing materials remain in good condition
- that nobody disturbs it accidentally
The survey must locate asbestos-containing materials that could be damaged or disturbed by normal activities, by foreseeable maintenance, or by installing new equipment, pipes or cabling for example.
A refurbishment/demolition survey is necessary when the building (or part of it) is to be upgraded, refurbished or demolished. It aims to ensure that:
- nobody will be harmed by work on asbestos-containing materials in the premises or equipment
- such work will be done by the right contractor in the right way
The survey must locate and identify all asbestos-containing materials before any structural work begins at a stated location or on stated equipment at the premises.
It involves destructive inspection and asbestos disturbance.
The area surveyed must be vacated during the survey and certified ‘fit for reoccupation’ before people use it again.
Surveyors must be competent
Surveys can be carried out by qualified in-house personnel or a third party. In each case, the surveyor must be competent to carry out the work required.
This means that the duty holder needs to make reasonable enquiries as to whether the organisation or individual is technically competent to carry out the survey adequately and safely.
You don’t have to be an expert to get a good idea of how competent a surveyor is – ask questions- Have they completed the BOHS IP402 Asbestos Surveying in Buildings training
Inadequate surveys can have disastrous consequences resulting in contamination to people, equipment and furnishings with asbestos fibres.
The survey report
The final surveyor’s report must be clear, unambiguous and readily accessible to those who need to use it.
Caveats should be limited, fully justifiable, agreed and documented in the report in a separate section.
Each asbestos survey report should contain as a minimum:
- name of surveyor
- an executive summary of the survey
- points on scope, date and main findings
- overall recommendations and conclusions
- further actions
- name of the laboratory carrying out analysis of samples
As an Authorised BOHS training company Envirospect will assist you with your training needs.
Book your survey training today via our links above or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Adapted from hseni gov uk