Asbestos and the Refurbishment Season
If you are a building owner, managing agent or employer and are considering renovating any of your properties then you need to make sure you have fulfilled your legal asbestos obligations before contractors start work on any planned refurbishment.
As a dutyholder, you are probably aware that regardless as to whether any refurbishment work is due to take place, you have a requirement to determine if asbestos is present within your building and if so where it is likely to be. This may involve reviewing the age of the building, records for the building including architects plans/drawings, records of previous asbestos removal works and any previous surveys of the building.
If there is clear evidence that no asbestos containing materials (ACMs) are present within the building (e.g. the building was constructed without using ACMs or records to show that all ACMs have been satisfactorily removed) then this should be recorded as proof of compliance with the regulation.
If you are unsure whether ACMs are present or not, then as the dutyholder you should presume asbestos is present until proven otherwise. You will need to make certain people are aware of this fact and ensure no work which will disturb the fabric of the building is undertaken until the presence or absence of asbestos materials has been determined by undertaking an asbestos survey.
Alternatively if you don’t wish to conduct a survey you can continue to presume asbestos to be present. However presuming the presence of asbestos may result in additional cost and time delays as it may only defer the need for sampling and analysis until a later date such as at a time when any work is carried out. It is advised to carry out sampling and analysis to ascertain whether any presumed materials positively identify as asbestos prior to undertaking any work, as any work carried out on presumed materials would need to involve appropriate contractors and work methods in compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012 irrespective of whether the material was actually an ACM or not.
When is a refurbishment and demolition survey required?
If your building contains or is likely to contain asbestos you will need to undertake a refurbishment and demolition survey before you start any significant renovation work such as removing walls, doors, windows, rewiring a building or installing new plant and equipment. If the renovation only involves non-intrusive works which will not cause damage to the fabric of the building, such as painting, then it is unlikely that a survey will be needed. A survey may also be required when more intrusive maintenance and repair work is being carried out. A refurbishment and demolition survey will usually still be required in buildings which could contain asbestos even if ACMs have not previously been identified by an existing management survey. This is because a management survey is not fully intrusive and asbestos hidden deep within the fabric of the building may only become apparent using more intrusive methods of inspection.
The main purpose of the survey is make sure nobody will be harmed by coming into contact with an ACM whilst work is taking place on your premises and that the correct processes and methods of working are adopted by contractors.
Under the current HSG264 guidelines any plans relating to the refurbishment work must be included in the desktop study conducted prior to the survey being carried out. As a dutyholder you will need to provide the surveyor with all relevant information relating to the site such as plans, previous surveys etc. The surveyor in turn is required to plan the survey to reduce the number of inaccessible areas. Any inaccessible areas should be presumed to contain asbestos.
A refurbishment and demolition survey is usually conducted with a view to locating and identifying any asbestos so it can be removed rather than managed. The survey does not normally provide an assessment of the condition of the asbestos but the surveyor should identify any areas of damage or areas where additional asbestos debris may be present. If asbestos removal is not a short term option then the condition of the ACMs will need to be assessed and managed accordingly until such a time as it can be removed.
What does a refurbishment and demolition survey involve?
The survey will locate and describe as far as is reasonably practicable, all asbestos containing materials in the area where renovations are to take place. Usually the survey only needs to target the specific areas in which the works are to be undertaken. There is no need to survey the whole property unless demolition is planned.
A refurbishment and demolition survey differs from the more standard management survey in that it is fully intrusive and involves destructive inspection, as necessary to gain access to all areas including those areas that may be difficult to reach. It may involve lifting carpets and tiles, breaking through walls, ceilings, cladding and partitioning. Controls will need to be put in place to prevent the spread of debris which may include asbestos.
Refurbishment and demolition surveys should only be conducted in unoccupied areas to minimise the risk of exposure to employees or the public. In ideal circumstances the building should not be in service and all furnishings removed.
For minor refurbishment, this only applies to the room involved or even part of the room where the survey only covers a small area of a large room. In these situations, there should be effective isolation of the survey area and all furnishings should be removed as far as possible or protected using sheeting.
The survey area must be shown to be fit for reoccupation before people move back in. This will require a thorough visual inspection and, if appropriate air sampling.
There may be some circumstances where the building is still in use at the time the survey is carried out. In the education sector for example, refurbishment and demolition surveys may be conducted in schools or colleges during school holidays. Once again the surveyed area will need to be effectively isolated and shown to be fit for reoccupation before any staff or students are allowed back into the area.
What if asbestos is found on my premises?
Your asbestos responsibilities go much further than just ensuring that the most appropriate type of survey has been completed. You have to make sure that if ACMs are found then asbestos register is prepared to record the types and locations of any ACMs identified or presumed to be on site.
The register must be kept up-to-date and must be available on site so that it can be viewed by maintenance staff, contractors and anyone else who needs to know the locations of the ACMs. You must also make sure the appropriate level of asbestos awareness training has been provided before work commences.
The asbestos register forms part of the asbestos management plan which is also a legal requirement. You will need to decide the best way to manage any ACMs found on site. There are three main options available:
- Leave the ACM in place and manage
- Protect and seal the ACM
- Repair/remove the ACM
If you are undertaking major renovations or demolition work you will need to consider removing any ACMs in the area where the works are taking place. CAR 2012 (regulation 7) contains a specific requirement for all ACMs within the affected area to be removed, as far as is reasonably practicable and unless removal would cause a greater risk to employees than if the asbestos had been left in place, before any major refurbishment or demolition work takes place. In situations where you are going to make structural changes to a building such as removing walls or partitions etc. removal may also be required.
The information from the refurbishment and demolition survey should be used to help inform the tendering process for any asbestos removal works that are required before any renovations start. The survey will also need to be made available to any contractors who may be bidding for work so that any asbestos risks can be addressed.
If you are not sure whether you require a refurbishment and demolition survey prior to commissioning any renovation works to your property then we would recommend obtaining advice from a qualified asbestos consultant. The consultant will be able to assess whether or not the scope of the renovations planned go beyond the standard management survey.
The qualified consultants at Metro Safety can advise you on the type of survey required. You can contact us on 0845 058 9999 or visit our asbestos pages for further information.