4. Arrange an asbestos survey
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The purpose of an asbestos survey
An asbestos survey aims to:
- provide accurate information on the location, amount and condition of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs)
- assess the level of any damage or deterioration of the ACMs and whether remedial action is required
- provide information to produce an asbestos register and an asbestos management plan for the premises
- identify hidden ACMs to be removed before refurbishment work or demolition
There are 2 types of survey – a management survey and a refurbishment or demolition survey. Both these survey types are likely to require sampling.
A management survey
The main aim of a management survey is to allow you, as the dutyholder, to produce an asbestos register and an asbestos management plan.
It will help you manage ACMs during normal occupation and use of the premises.
Areas to be inspected as part of a management survey
A management survey should include an inspection of the following areas:
- all rooms, corridors, stairs, basements, cellars, underground rooms and undercrofts
- underfloor coverings, above false ceilings (ceiling voids), lofts, inside risers, service ducts and lift shafts
- external areas including roofs, soffits, gutters and windows
- other areas liable to be disturbed by maintenance activities, for example behind access hatches
The value and usefulness of the survey can be seriously undermined if you or the surveyor impose restrictions on the survey scope.
It can mean areas are not inspected for asbestos, for example due to there being no access at the time of the survey. These areas will need to be presumed to contain asbestos and managed accordingly until they can be inspected.
Refurbishment or demolition surveys
There is a legal requirement for all ACMs to be removed, as far as reasonably practicable, before major refurbishment or demolition.
This type of survey must locate and identify ACMs, including those hidden within the building fabric, before any structural work begins at the premises or on equipment.
A refurbishment or demolition survey must be carried out by a competent surveyor. It involves destructive inspection and potential asbestos disturbance so the area must be vacated during the survey. The surveyor must confirm it as ‘fit for reoccupation*’ after the survey.
A refurbishment or demolition survey aims to ensure:
- ACMs are removed, where required, before the work starts
- nobody will be harmed by work on ACMs in the premises or equipment
- such work will be done safely by an appropriate contractor
Selecting a competent surveyor
- have survey knowledge, and know the risks in surveying
- have training and experience, and recognise their limitations
- use an effective quality management system
- should be able to demonstrate independence, impartiality and integrity
- do their work in accordance with Asbestos: The survey guide
How to check the competency of a surveyor
HSE strongly recommends using accredited asbestos surveying organisations.
The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is currently the sole recognised accreditation body in Great Britain for asbestos inspection bodies carrying out surveys. The UKAS website will help you find a surveyor.
As the dutyholder, you should be satisfied that the surveyor is technically competent to carry out the survey adequately and safely, and can allocate adequate resources to it.
There is more information on selecting a competent surveyor in Asbestos: The survey guide.
Sampling and analysis of asbestos materials
The only way to confirm if a suspect material contains asbestos fibres is to obtain and analyse a sample of it.
Sampling asbestos materials should be carried out by a suitably trained person. If in doubt, use a competent surveyor.
To analyse a sample you must use trained and competent analysts who must be accredited. UKAS accredits laboratories and the UKAS website will help you find an asbestos testing laboratory.
Sourcing analysts and surveyors
We have information on sourcing professional advice and services on asbestos. It provides links to lists of testing laboratories and accredited survey providers.
Checking the accuracy of the survey report
You need to be able to understand the survey report, use it correctly and make sure it complies with tender or contractual obligations.
To decide how accurate a survey is you can check:
- for unagreed caveats or disclaimers
- diagrams and plans are clear and accurate
- all rooms and areas have been accessed
- enough samples have been taken (usually 1–2 per area or room) and sample numbers are not disproportionate (for example dominated by one ACM type)
There is more information on checking the accuracy of a survey report in Asbestos: The survey guide.