24th August, 2023

Asbestos Surveys, The Law, And Legal Requirements

Asbestos surveys are a legal requirement in many circumstances. Working or occupying a building without an asbestos survey could be breaking the law. But when do you need one, and when don't you need one? You can find out when you need an asbestos survey, and why, in this blog post.

Asbestos Surveys, The Law, And Legal Requirements header image

Knowing if (and where) there is asbestos in a building could save your life. Asbestos kills thousands of people every year in the UK.

For many people dying today, asbestos exposure happened years ago. But people still get exposed to asbestos today, and those are the people who will be dying from asbestos-related diseases in future years.

Accidental asbestos exposure usually happens when you didn't know asbestos was there. And, once you have been exposed, it's too late.

To avoid getting exposed to asbestos, you need to know where it is.

And the best way to find out if and where there is asbestos is with an asbestos survey.

Asbestos surveys are often a legal requirement, and not just for construction work.

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 you don't have an asbestos survey, you might need to get one.

While there are legal requirements surrounding asbestos surveys, a survey is not always required. For example, an asbestos survey is not usually necessary in someone's home unless they are having construction work.

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:

For any of the following:

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 was fully banned from use in the UK in 1999.

If the building was constructed in 2000 or later, it shouldn't contain asbestos.

But if the building was built before the asbestos ban, then asbestos materials may have been used.

Pre 2000 (especially in the 50s, 60s and 70s), asbestos was a very popular building material, used 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.

Here's 40 places you can find asbestos-containing materials.

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

asbestos fibres tiny

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.

But even a surveyor won't know for certain if a material contains asbestos. Not without a microscope. Samples are 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

Activity: Normal Occupation
Survey Required: Management Asbestos Survey

Non-domestic buildings include commercial buildings like warehouses and offices, or public buildings like schools and hospitals.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) provides the law surrounding asbestos, including asbestos surveys.

Regulation 4 sets out the duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises. This would apply to public buildings, workplaces, factories, warehouses, offices, hospitals, and 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.

Regulation 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 a suitable survey for 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

Activity: Normal Occupation
Survey Required: Management Asbestos Survey

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.

Common areas would include, 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.

Just like non-domestic premises, in these circumstances, a management asbestos survey will be carried out to identify asbestos materials in accessible areas.

Construction Work

Activity: Construction Work
Survey Required: Refurbishment and Demolition Asbestos Survey

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 building's normal occupation and use.

But when construction work is carried out, it doesn't matter what type of building it is.

For construction work you'll need an asbestos survey for any building built pre-2000, including:

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 diseases, and in many cases, death.

asbestos fibres strong

And the time when asbestos materials are most likely to be disturbed is during construction work.

  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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