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Asbestos Management 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.

To be legislative compliant for the purposes of satisfying regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), the minimum that the Duty Holder has to do is have a ‘Management Survey’ provide no major works are to take place such as refurbishment and or demolition in which case as the name suggests a ‘Refurbishment Survey’ and / or ‘Demolition Survey’ will be required.

So what is a Management Survey?

A management survey is the standard survey. Its purpose is to locate, as far as reasonably practicable, the presence and extent of any suspect ACMs in the building which could be damaged or disturbed during normal occupancy, including foreseeable maintenance and installation, and to assess their condition.

Management surveys will often involve minor intrusive work and some disturbance.

The extent of intrusion will vary between premises and depend on what is reasonably practicable for individual properties, ie it will depend on factors such as the type of building, the nature of construction, accessibility etc.

A management survey should include an assessment of the condition of the various ACMs and their ability to release fibres into the air if they are disturbed in some way. This ‘material assessment’ give a good initial guide to the priority for managing ACMs as it will identify the materials which will
most readily release airborne fibres if they are disturbed.

The survey will usually involve sampling and analysis to confirm the presence or absence of ACMs. However, a management survey can also involve presuming the presence or absence of asbestos. A management survey can be completed using a combination of sampling ACMs and presuming ACMs or, indeed, just presuming.

Any materials presumed to contain asbestos must also have their condition assessed.

By presuming the presence of asbestos, the need for sampling and analysis can be deferred until a later time (eg before any work is carried out). However, this approach has implications for the management arrangements.

The dutyholder bears potential additional costs of management for some non-ACMs. Any work
carried out on ‘presumed’ materials would need to involve appropriate contractors and work methods in compliance with CAR 2012 irrespective of whether the material was actually an ACM or not.

Alternatively, before any work starts, sampling and analysis can be undertaken to confirm or refute the presence of asbestos.

The results will determine the work methods and contractors to be used. The ‘presumption’ approach has several disadvantages: it is less rigorous, it can lead to constant obstructions and delays before work can start, and it is more difficult to control. ‘Default’ presumptions may also lead to unnecessary removal of non-ACMs and their disposal as asbestos waste.

Default presumptions may be suitable in some instances, eg ‘small’ or simple premises, as part of a client’s management arrangements.

Remember in the absence of sampling to check for asbestos regulation 5 of CAR 2012 places a mandatory duty on states:-

(1) An employer must not undertake work in demolition, maintenance, or any other work which exposes or is liable to expose employees of that employer to asbestos in respect of any premises unless either—
(a) that employer has carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment as to whether asbestos, what type of asbestos, contained in what material and in what condition is present or is liable to be present in those premises; or
(b) if there is doubt as to whether asbestos is present in those premises that employer— (i) assumes that asbestos is present, and that it is not chrysotile alone, and
(ii) observes the applicable provisions of these Regulations.

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