3. Find out if asbestos could be present in your building

If the building was built or refurbished before 2000, assume that there is asbestos in it.

If it was built after 2000 there is unlikely to be any asbestos, but think about any old industrial machinery or equipment, such as industrial ovens.

Asbestos can be visible or hidden within the building fabric, for example inside wall cavities or fire doors.

You must identify all asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) present in the building that could be damaged or disturbed during normal occupancy. This should include routine and foreseeable maintenance and cleaning activities.

It is therefore very important that these areas are identified. Then you can make a record of where the asbestos is located.

Any installation or refurbishment work which disturbs the fabric of the building where asbestos could be hidden will require a more intrusive survey to be completed before work can start.

Old equipment and machinery

Take into account that asbestos can be in old equipment and machinery, for example:

  • ovens (rope seals, insulation)
  • gaskets
  • electrical switchgear
  • heat resistant panels

If you intend to maintain old equipment, you should find out if it contains asbestos. If possible, ask the equipment manufacturer or service engineer. Otherwise, presume the equipment contains asbestos, unless you know it doesn't.

Maintenance may disturb asbestos in old equipment. If you don't know what equipment there is and where it is located, you need a 'management survey'. You can then decide how to go about safe maintenance using either a contractor trained in non-licensed work or a licensed contractor.

You should not buy or sell equipment that contains asbestos.

If you intend to dispose of old equipment that may contain asbestos, this must be transported with a consignment note to a permitted asbestos waste facility. Ask a licensed asbestos removal contractor for advice.

Check existing information and plans

Check if you already have information on asbestos in the building.

You may have building plans and other paperwork which detail ACMs used in the original construction or refurbishment of your premises.

You are more likely to have asbestos survey reports, site plans, an asbestos register, health and safety file or documents concerning previous asbestos removal work.

If you do have an asbestos register, check that this and the site plans cover all buildings built before 2000 on your site and that the information about ACMs is up to date.

Consult other people

Consult others, such as workers and safety representatives. They may be able to provide you with more information and have a duty of co-operation to make this available.

You can also ask the:

  • previous owners or tenants of the building
  • facilities management company, if there is one
  • equipment suppliers or repairers
  • architect, building designer or builder

Inspect the building

If your premises are very simple, for example you only have a roof with asbestos cement sheeting and there is no hidden asbestos, you may be able to do your own inspection. Take care not to walk on fragile material, for example asbestos cement roofs.

However, in most cases you will need to arrange for a management survey to be carried out by a competent asbestos surveyor to identify and establish the condition of ACMs in the building.

Photographs and diagrams

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