When working with asbestos it is crucial to implement the correct procedures and subsequent controls. If the work is poorly planned then the consequences can be severe.
Developing a scope of work is the first step, this can easily be achieved by understanding your responsibilities as a Principal Contactor. Although the CDM regulations were amended in 2015 the responsibilities to identify any foreseeable risks still remain. There are many permutations to how this can be achieved but having reliable and trustworthy information is a fundamental element to a successful project. You may be reliant on the Client or Principal Designer to provide accurate information but in certain occasions this can be a liability. A typical example is the validity of an asbestos survey by identifying asbestos containing materials that are likely to be disturbed during any planned maintenance, construction or demolition work. If you are in any doubt that an asbestos survey could be misleading then seek the advice from a professional.
Planning an Asbestos Survey
Although it may not be a legal requirement but it is highly recommended that you use a UKAS accredited asbestos consultant for surveys. There are two variations of surveys:
- Management – for the purpose of managing the condition of asbestos in all work place buildings, the survey will include taking limited samples is discreet locations and preparing an asbestos register.
- Refurbishment & Demolition – for the purpose of identifying asbestos in all parts of a building that is subject to your work. The survey is destructive and requires access to all areas where unlimited samples will be taken for analysis. Ideally the location of the survey needs to be unoccupied but with the direct planning with the surveyor this problem can be overcome.
Before you nominate an asbestos consultant make sure that they fully understand your scope of work, walk the site with the consultant point out the locations that may require planned access, discuss working hours, health and safety considerations and security measures that may be in place. With accurate planning and using a competent consultant you will avoid any caveats within the report.
In some cases it may be extremely difficult to gain access to all the locations when the survey is being undertaken, returning to the site and taking controlled samples can be considered. In the event of asbestos being discovered during your work then you must take urgent action to minimise any potential exposure. Your company should have adequate procedures in place to prevent the spread of asbestos and the subsequent exposure to individuals. The only absolute way to determine if asbestos has been disturbed is to have the suspected material tested, many laboratories can test the material within a few hours but this would depend on who you use. The result of the test will determine what action you must take.