Asbestos – Frequently Asked Questions
What is asbestos and where can it be found?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was commonly used in the UK up until the 1980s. Used globally from as early as the mid- 1800s, asbestos became extremely popular after World War II, and was used in everything from toothpaste to fire-proof vests, ceiling tiles, pipe lagging and asbestos-cement roofs.
Due to its versatility and heat resistant properties, asbestos soon became a standard material in the building and construction industry, used throughout the UK and particularly widespread in residential property. It’s reported that 50% of homes in the UK could contain some form of asbestos.
Asbestos generally isn’t considered dangerous unless it has become airborne, when it can be inhaled or ingested. Only if disturbed or damaged is there potential for asbestos fibres to be released into the air. Deterioration of asbestos containing materials can also increase the potential of asbestos becoming airborne.
From the 1980s onwards, the overwhelming health risks associated with the inhalation of asbestos fibres became evident, leading to a decline its use. However, it was not until 1999 that the UK banned all types of asbestos. Any building prior to the year 2000, therefore, could present an asbestos risk.
Who is responsible for managing asbestos in buildings?
Those responsible for the maintenance and repair activities in buildings have a ‘duty to manage’ asbestos. These can include owners and occupiers of commercial premises (e.g. offices), and the owners and managers of domestic buildings (e.g. housing associations).
This is legally required under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. They also have a duty to assess the presence and condition of any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). If asbestos is present, or presumed to be so, then it must be managed appropriately.
What is an asbestos survey and when is one needed?
An asbestos survey is an effective way to manage asbestos in premises by providing accurate information about the location, amount and type of any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).
The survey typically involves sampling and analysis to determine the presence of asbestos. Surveys can only be carried out by competent surveyors with the necessary skills, experience and qualifications.
A survey may be conducted if ACMs are suspected as being present, or say due to the age and type of building, the choice may be made to presume there is asbestos in the buildings and thus all necessary precautions taken for any work that takes place. However, it is typically best practice to have an asbestos survey carried out to be sure whether asbestos is present or not.
The asbestos survey can provide information to inform an asbestos register, a risk assessment and subsequent management plan.
What kind of asbestos survey do I need?
This type of survey is typically undertaken to comply with regulations such as The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
The survey involves surface sampling designed to identify any asbestos containing materials that may be present within a property.
Management Surveys involve creating a register of all building materials and identifying any suspect asbestos products within the property that may be disturbed during regular occupation. This method of surveying is not fully intrusive and can be undertaken when the property is occupied.
This type of survey is designed to allow a competent person to monitor and record the condition of any previously identified asbestos products within a building.
Asbestos containing materials like any other building material can become damaged and degraded. As an asbestos product degrades it can be more likely to become a hazard to health, therefore should be inspected at regular intervals to ensure its condition has not deteriorated.
For this type of survey to be undertaken, an existing asbestos survey or asbestos register should be in place.
This type of survey is required if any intrusive refurbishment works are to be undertaken and allows the successful removal of any identified materials prior to the works beginning, as well as project planningto change to avoid these materials.
Fully intrusive and can be targeted to areas which may be affected by proposed refurbishment works.
Will be required by your CDM Co-ordinator under the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015.
Will identify asbestos containing materials which will require removal or treatment prior to the planned works.
This is a fully intrusive survey, designed to identify all asbestos containing materials by using fully destructive techniques to access all parts of a buildings construction.
- Should be undertaken for all demolition projects to ensure that any asbestos containing materials identified within the survey can be removed by an asbestos removal contractor prior to demolition of the building.
Should not be undertaken in a property that is occupied or due to be reoccupied after the survey has been completed.
How should I dispose of asbestos waste (including asbestos contaminated soils)?
Asbestos waste is any asbestos product or material containing asbestos, which is to be disposed of. This includes; any contaminated building materials, dust, rubble, used tools that cannot be decontaminated, disposable PPE (personal protective equipment) and damp rags that have been used for cleaning.
Asbestos waste must be placed in suitable packaging to prevent any fibres being released.
Asbestos waste should only be handled by a licensed disposal site and needs to be transported to these sites in suitable containers that prevent the release of any asbestos fibres while in transit.