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Asbestos Refurbishment Surveys

Why do we need to have our buildings surveyed?

Well first of all if you are the owner, occupier or person responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of Non domestic premises, then you are classed as the Duty Holder. As a Duty Holder it is your responsibility to find locate and record all asbestos containing materials within those premises for which you have control over. Where organisations have large portfolios of buildings they will need to identify and select an ‘Appointed Person’ to manage the asbestos within their properties and manage the companies ‘Asbestos Management Plan’

What’s the Risk?

Large amounts of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were used for a wide range of construction purposes in new and refurbished buildings until 1999 when all use of asbestos was banned. This extensive use means that there are still many buildings in Great Britain 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 are released into the air, which, if breathed in, can cause serious lung diseases, including cancers.

Workers who disturb the fabric of buildings during maintenance, refurbishment, repair, installation and related activities may be exposed to asbestos every time they unknowingly work on ACMs or carry out work without taking the correct precautions.

The purpose of managing asbestos in buildings is to prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, minimise exposure for these groups of workers and other people in the premises.
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.

When planning refurbishment works, a ‘Management Survey’ is no longer a valid tool especially where the fabric of the building is going to be accessed, to be legislative compliant for the purposes of satisfying regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), a ‘Refurbishment Survey’ will be required, this type of survey can be targeted to include only the areas where the refurbishment is to take place and the areas which might be affected by the works. A Refurbishment Survey is more in depth and of an intrusive nature i.e. accessing floor and ceiling voids, wall cavities to ascertain a greater understanding of what materials may be encountered, their accessibility and extent.

So what is a Refurbishment Survey?

Refurbishment surveys are intended to locate all the asbestos in the relevant part of the building where the refurbishment is to take place so targets specific areas, as far as reasonably practicable.

It is a disruptive and fully intrusive survey which needs to penetrate all parts of the building structure where such refurbishment is taking place.

Aggressive inspection techniques are used to lift carpets and tiles, break through walls, ceilings, cladding and partitions, and open up floors. In these situations, strict controls measures are put in place to prevent the spread of debris, which may include asbestos.

Refurbishment surveys should only be conducted in unoccupied areas to minimise risks to the public or employees on the premises. Ideally, the building should not be in service and all furnishings removed.

A refurbishment survey is needed before any refurbishment work is carried out. This type of survey is used to locate and describe, as far as reasonably practicable, all ACMs in the area where the refurbishment work will take place similar to that of a ‘Demolition Survey’ which is required if the demolition of the whole building is planned.

A Refurbishment Survey is fully intrusive and involves destructive inspection, as necessary, to gain access to all areas, including those that may be difficult to reach. A refurbishment survey may also be required in other circumstances, eg when more intrusive maintenance and repair work will be carried out or for plant removal or dismantling.

There is a specific requirement in CAR 2012 (regulation 7) for all ACMs to be removed as far as reasonably practicable before major refurbishment or final demolition.

Removing ACMs is also appropriate in other smaller refurbishment situations which involve structural or layout changes to buildings (eg removal of partitions, walls, units etc). Under CDM, the survey information should be used to help in the tendering process for removal of ACMs from the building before work starts.

The survey report should be supplied by the client to designers and contractors who may be bidding for the work, so that the asbestos risks can be addressed. In this type of survey, where the asbestos is identified so that it can be removed (rather than to ‘manage’ it), the survey does not normally assess the condition of the asbestos, other than to indicate areas of damage or where additional asbestos debris may be present. However, where the asbestos removal may not take place for some time, the ACMs’ condition will need to be assessed and the materials managed.
For minor refurbishment, this generally applies to the rooms involved or even part of the rooms where the work is small and the room large.

In these situations, there should be effective isolation of the survey area (eg full floor to ceiling partition), and furnishings should be removed as far as possible or protected using sheeting. The ‘surveyed’ area must be shown to be fit for reoccupation before people move back in. This will require a thorough visual inspection and, if appropriate (eg where there has been significant destruction), reassurance air sampling with disturbance. Under no circumstances should staff remain in rooms or areas of buildings when intrusive sampling is performed.

There may be some circumstances where the building is still ‘occupied’ (ie in use) at the time a ‘demolition’ survey is carried out. For example in the educational sector, refurbishment/demolition surveys may be conducted in schools or colleges during one closure period (eg holidays) and the work not undertaken until the next holiday period. Also, a demolition survey maybe conducted to establish the economic future or viability of a building(s). The survey results would determine the outcome. In such situations, the ‘survey’ will need extremely careful managing with personnel and equipment/furnishings being decanted and protected (as necessary), while the survey progresses through the building. Again, there should be effective isolation of the survey areas and the ‘surveyed’ area must be shown to be fit for reoccupation before personnel reoccupy.

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