Every building in the UK that was constructed before the total asbestos ban of 1999 can be presumed to contain asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Because asbestos has been found to be such a hazardous substance, causing severe and fatal health problems in many people. The best way to identify whether or not asbestos or ACMs are present in a building is to have an asbestos survey performed. This will allow the building owner to identify the location of any asbestos or ACMs and determine which type of asbestos, if any, is involved so that plans can be made for dealing with it.
An asbestos management survey is designed to help building owners/home owner to manage any asbestos or ACMs during normal occupation and use of the premises and to ensure that nobody is harmed by the presence of asbestos. The Survey will locate any asbestos or ACMs that may be damaged or disturbed by normal activities and take any necessary preventative measures to ensure that the asbestos does not present a health risk in the future. This means carrying out a Materials Assessment in order to determine the ability of the asbestos to release fibres into the atmosphere if disturbed.
If the premises are simple and straightforward it’s possible for the duty holder or householder to carry out the survey. You will need to look at the building records to see if you can find any existing information about asbestos being present in the building – this could mean looking at plans relating to the building, records of previous asbestos work, etc. Next you’ll need to do a visual inspection of the building to check for likely places or materials that could contain asbestos, either in the fabric of the building or in the equipment contained in the building.
Examples of where asbestos may be found in the building fabric:
- Insulation under the roof, on beams and stanchions
- Corrugated roofing tiles, slates, soffits, gutters, downpipes, walls and panels
- Insulation around pipes, heaters, boilers, in storage heaters
- Insulation around windows and doors
- Decorative coatings on walls and ceilings
- Water cistern
- Flues and waste water pipes
- Plastic floor tiles
Examples of where asbestos may be found in equipment:
- Ironing surfaces
- Insulation matting
- Fire blankets
- Fire insulation in or on doors
- Insulating gloves
Make a note of the condition and the amount of materials that could contain asbestos. In areas that are difficult to access (such as wall cavities, roof void, undercroft, etc) you should presume that these contain asbestos.
Once you have inspected the building you’ll need to decide on what to do about any asbestos or ACMs that you discovered. If the asbestos is in good condition and in an area that doesn’t need working on, then it really is best left alone and undisturbed. If you’ve come across any asbestos that is damaged or deteriorating, then this is a problem that will need addressing and the best way of doing this is to seek professional help. A licensed asbestos contractor can provide you with the advice you need on how best to approach this situation – whether the asbestos needs to be removed or whether you can have it sealed to prevent the escape of asbestos fibres in the future.