Refurbishment and demolition asbestos surveys are vitally important tools in assessing the safety of contractors working with buildings. It’s unlikely that information gained during a management survey will suffice unless refurbishment works are very minor and not intrusive.
However, given these surveys will normally involve breaking into the fabric of the building, refurbishment and demolition asbestos surveys can pose unique problems and it’s crucial that as a consultancy, we work with our clients to plan them carefully.
Here are the top five issues we come across:
‘Pictures speak a thousand words’, or so the old cliché goes. Good plans, clearly marked up along with a sound scope of works (see. 2) help improve the survey information and can reduce the time taken on site. Outdated or incomplete plans may sometimes hinder progress whilst time is taken trying to make sense of them.
This isn’t always available, but a history of the building in terms of any extensions, known asbestos issues and asbestos removals are very useful and can focus the survey plan. For example, a post 2001 extension can normally be excluded, apart from where it meets older construction. Also, if there are known asbestos containing materials in place, we may need a licensed contractor in attendance to facilitate access to check for further such items within.
A tricky problem at times, is when building owners or managers may be requesting a survey prior to works in the future or as part of a pack of pre-tender information. Therefore, the building may be in continuous, or at least, daily use. We cannot conduct intrusive inspections with building occupants in the immediate vicinity and so this needs to be carefully considered.
Also, whilst we’d always leave a building safe and tidy, we need to discuss whether the building fabric is to be ‘made good’ which is likely to involve bringing in a tradesperson to facilitate this.
A tight scope of work is very important, particularly with refurbishment projects. We want to ensure we cover all the areas that may be disturbed by the impending works, including any cable or pipe runs from other areas of the building.
Naturally, scopes may change during the actual works too and it’s important that the contractors understand the remit of the survey at the time and stop work if it begins to stray outside that.
Access is everything. We need to inspect all the areas within the scope of work otherwise they must be presumed to contain asbestos until they are accessed. This may even include within foundations and masonry – particularly prior to demolition work.
We need any keys, or passcodes at the time and site contacts need to be aware of the nature of our work and be prepared for it.
One issue is often inaccessibly for physical reasons – heights, stored items, general hygiene or unsafe structure. Plans need to be discussed beforehand as once onsite, it will accrue extra survey time that may add to the project cost.
Consideration can be given to staggering the inspection too. For example, inspecting areas of excessive height may require expensive access platforms and/or scaffolding that will also be required when the works commence. Rather than pay twice, it could be that access is shared with other contractors nearer the time. Be aware however, that any licensable asbestos materials found cannot be removed for at least two weeks (unless in strict exceptional circumstances) and so may delay the project.
You can read more on our asbestos surveys here.