Every building in the UK that was built before the year 2000 is likely to contain asbestos. This means that an Asbestos Refurbishment and Demolition Survey must be undertaken before any demolition or refurbishment/remodelling work can be carried out. Because asbestos is the single greatest cause of work related death in the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is working hard to ensure that the risks of being exposed to this hazardous substance are minimized. The Refurbishment and Demolition Survey is designed to make sure that people who may be expose4d to asbestos during the course of their work know exactly what needs to be done in order to protect themselves and others from the risk of asbestos related disease.
The Survey is carried out in order to identify and locate any asbestos in the building (or part of the building) and there is a legal requirement for any asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs) to be removed safety before any refurbishment, remodelling or demolition work gets underway. The Surveys can only be carried out in unoccupied parts of the building in order to minimize the risk involved for employees or members of the public.
By its very nature, an Asbestos Survey is disruptive and intrusive – it will need to penetrate all parts of the building’s structure. The inspection process involves breaking through walls, lifting carpets or tiling, opening up floors, breaking through partitions, ceilings and cladding materials.
After the Asbestos Survey has been carried out the building owner (or designated responsible person) must pass on the Asbestos Report to any contractors or designers who are bidding for work so that the asbestos risks can be adequately assessed and addressed.
Any asbestos that is discovered will need to be removed in a safe and effective manner and all removal work must be carried out by a HSE licensed contractor. The asbestos must be safely removed and disposed of in the appropriate manner. This is the responsibility of the ‘dutyholder’ of the building. The ‘dutyholder’ can be any of the following:
- the owner of the building
- a person designated as responsible through a tenancy agreement or contract
- a person with control of the building even if there is no formal contract or agreement involved
- if the building is multi-occupancy, the owner who has responsibility for maintenance and repairs of the whole building
For those who are unclear as to whether or not they are the dutyholder of the building, it is advised that professional advice is sought – the responsibilities involved are very serious, so clarification is essential in these cases.
During the Survey, asbestos or ACMs may be found in any of the following areas of a building:
- asbestos cement panelling
- asbestos insulating board ceiling tiles
- asbestos insulation on piping and ductwork
- sprayed coatings on walls and ceilings
- textured coatings on walls and ceilings
- asbestos insulating board panels
Because asbestos was widely used in the past as a fire retardant, lagging, insulation, textured coatings, ropes and cloth used in gaskets and seals and flat or corrugated sheeting, this hazardous material could be in any or many parts of the building. The dutyholder for the building is responsible for making sure that the Asbestos Refurbishment and Demolition Survey is undertaken.