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30th May, 2019

Asbestos Surveys, The Law, And Legal Requirements

Asbestos surveys are a legal requirement in many circumstances. This means working or occupying a building without one could be breaking the law. You can find out when you need an asbestos survey, and why, in this blog post.

Knowing if there is asbestos is a building, and where, is the whole point of an asbestos survey. And knowing this could save your life. Asbestos kills thousands of people every year in the UK. Accidental exposure to asbestos usually happens when you didn't know asbestos was there. And, once you have been exposed, it's too late.

Whether you are just occupying a building, managing a building, using it for work, or carrying out construction work. You should first check if there has been an asbestos survey. If there hasn't been one, you may need to get one carried out.

While there are legal requirements surrounding asbestos surveys, a survey might not always be required. So, what are the criteria for needing an asbestos survey? When do you need one, and when don't you need one? An asbestos survey will be required if the building was:

  • Built before 2000

And... any of the following:

  • Non-Domestic Buildings
  • Public Areas of Domestic Buildings
  • Construction Work

Let's take a look in a little more detail at what these criteria mean for you, and the type of asbestos survey you need in each situation.

Built Before 2000

The first thing to consider is the age of the building. This goes for any type of building. Asbestos in all its forms was banned in the UK in 1999. So if the building was constructed in 2000 or later, it shouldn't contain asbestos.

If the building was built prior to the asbestos ban, then asbestos materials may have been used. In fact, asbestos was a very popular building material, found in thousands of building products. Asbestos cement, insulation, sheeting, cladding, rainwater goods, insulating board, partitions, doors, ceiling panels, floor tiles, toilet seats - the list goes on.

But it is really hard to tell if a material contains asbestos. Asbestos fibres are so tiny, you can't see them with the naked eye. This is why you need a survey.

asbestos tiny fibres

During an asbestos survey, an asbestos surveyor, who is an expert in knowing where asbestos is likely to be hidden, will look for asbestos materials. Samples can be taken and inspected at a laboratory, to determine exactly the type and quantity of asbestos present.

If a building was built before 2000, it is likely to contain asbestos. Now we can consider the type of asbestos survey you may need.

Non-Domestic Buildings

The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) contain the law surrounding, you guessed it, asbestos. Regulation 4 sets out the duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises. This would apply to public buildings, workplaces, factories, warehouses, offices, hospitals, schools. Any building that is not your home.

  1. In order to manage the risk from asbestos in non-domestic premises, the dutyholder must ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment is carried out as to whether asbestos is or is liable to be present in the premises.
  2. In making the assessment—
    1. such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances must be taken; and
    2. the condition of any asbestos which is, or has been assumed to be, present in the premises must be considered.

Regulations 4 says that the duty holder (usually the building owner or person with control of the building) must take steps to find out if asbestos is present in the building, and what condition it is in. To comply with this legal requirement, a management asbestos survey is needed.

Management surveys can involve a combination of sampling to confirm asbestos is present or presuming asbestos to be present.

A management asbestos survey is the type of asbestos survey that will be carried out when a building is in normal occupation. It's not having any disruptive work carried out, like construction work. This survey will limit the samples taken and is the least intrusive type of survey. It is designed to check for asbestos in accessible areas, and report on the location, quantity and condition of any asbestos containing materials found.

Public Areas of Domestic Buildings

As we have learned in the section above, regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) applies to non-domestic premises. So you might assume that the regulations never apply to domestic buildings. And while this may be true in your home (during its normal occupation), it's not always the case.

The requirements under the duty to manage asbestos do apply in public areas (or common parts) of domestic premises. For example, corridors and reception areas in a block of flats.

The ‘duty to manage asbestos’ requirements of regulation 4 of CAR 2012 do not normally apply to domestic premises. However, the requirements do apply to common parts of premises, including housing developments and blocks of flats [...]. Examples of common parts would include foyers, corridors, lifts and lift shafts, staircases, boilerhouses, vertical risers, gardens, yards and outhouses.

Again, in these circumstances, a management asbestos survey will be carried out to identify asbestos materials in accessible areas.

Construction Work

So far, we have seen how the duty to manage asbestos applies to non-domestic buildings and common areas of some domestic buildings. This requirement applies during a buildings normal occupation and use. But when construction work is carried out, it doesn't matter what type of building it is.

The law changes when it comes to construction work. The main risk of asbestos materials comes if they are disturbed. Tiny fibres are released into the air and can be inhaled, leading to lung damage, asbestos disease, and in many cases, death. And the time when asbestos materials are most likely to be disturbed, during construction work.

asbestos strong fibres
  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—
    1. 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;

It doesn't matter what type of building the work is being carried out on, this law applies. Even if it's a home, the moment construction work starts, it becomes a workplace.

In this situation, regardless of the type of building, for construction work, the type of asbestos survey you need is a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey.

Download the free asbestos surveys toolbox talk as a reminder of asbestos survey legal requirements.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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